"These are the things that the L-rd commanded to make."
As the book of Exodus comes to a close, Moshe and the children of Israel are busy readying the Tabernacle for its scheduled first of the month of Nisan inauguration. Every aspect of every piece of every section of the Tabernacle and its courtyard is listed and described to the most minute detail. The shovels and forks and pans, bowls and basins to be used in the Divine service are all enumerated. The outer altar and the golden altar, the menora and the table of the showbread, the parochet curtain, the ark and the cheruvim are likewise described to the last detail. Men and women come forth to offer the raw materials they possess in their hand, as well as their skills and labor. Everything is proceeding on schedule.
We are tempted to look at this wistfully and even with a bit of envy. How fortunate was the generation of the desert! They didn't need to contend with the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, the Arab League, the Goldstone commission, and the International Court of Justice, all of which plague the nation of Israel today. Israel cannot declare its intention to build a single home in Jerusalem without being met by a downpour of scathing criticism. One can only imagine what the reaction might have been this past week had Israel announced, not its intention to build housing for Jews in Jerusalem, but to build the house of G-d on Mount Moriah.
But, on second thought, the geopolitical reality of the generation of the desert wasn't nearly so idyllic as we have supposed. After all, the Egyptian superpower, while still licking its wounds, was bound to return sooner or later to its former glory. Amalek had already proved to be a deadly and determined foe. A fifth column within the body of Israel itself, the Mixed Multitude had already ensnared the children of Israel in the grievous sin of the golden calf, and no doubt many kings and leaders of import, among them Balak, the king of Moav, and Bilaam, the heathen prophet, were already casting a wary eye upon the upstart nation of Israel.
So if Israel then had its share of arch enemies no less bent on her demise than the haters of the people and the G-d of Israel who populate the earth today, how were Moshe and the Israelites able to "carry off" the construction of the Mishkan and the inception of the Divine service, without incident or interruption by their many foes? What was their secret?
The great secret was an entire nation being of one mind and one heart, working together with diligence and determination, filling their days and their souls with purpose, a great purpose: responding in the affirmative to G-d's command: "They shall build for me a sanctuary and I will dwell amongst them." (Exodus 25:8) When Israel is united and determined in its efforts to serve G-d, the claws and fangs of even her most despicable and implacable enemies are retracted. Their venomous tongues are silenced.
The message is clear and unmistakable: were Israel to show the unity of purpose and determination required, we could build the Holy Temple today, and not a word of protest would be sounded, not in the hallowed halls of Congress, not in the security council chamber of the UN, and not in the bureaucratic maze of the EU governmental compound in Brussels. But where do we begin to build such a unity of purpose and vision? How do we go about it?
The Temple Institute has taken the unprecedented step of declaring this upcoming Tuesday, March 16th, the first day of the month of Nisan, ("the first of your months," ibid 12:2) The First International Temple Mount Awareness Day. Our intention on this day, the anniversary of the inauguration of the Tabernacle and the daily Tamid offering, is to begin building the necessary historical consensus which will enable the nation of Israel to direct its efforts entirely to the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and the renewal of the Divine service. We are taught that for the first seven days of the final preparation for the establishment of the Tabernacle in the desert, Moshe assembled and disassembled the Tabernacle twice each day. Perhaps he was testing all the parts, making certain that each section was fashioned according to instruction, and that all the separate elements would successfully be joined into one single Tabernacle - a sanctuary for G-d. We, too, don't expect to change the world in one single stroke. This is why we have deliberately coined the day as the FIRST International Temple Mount Awareness Day. We are prepared to repeat our call for solidarity with the Temple Mount as many times as is required. We will continue to call upon all people who attach themselves to the one G-d, the G-d of Israel, to assemble in unity of purpose and vision, until together we too are joined in a single unassailable movement for change: the building of the Holy Temple and the renewal of the Divine service.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven prepare for the conclusion of the book of Exodus this week with the construction of the Tabernacle and the tallying of its parts, reflect upon the repercussions of the heinous Golden Calf for our generation - for our sages instruct us that this sin is revisited in each generation, and try to determine just who are the nefarious Mixed Multitude who can still be heard to murmur amongst us "These are your gods, Israel," about every false and distracting notion, fad, political expediency and change of mind. Indeed, the golden calf is all about distraction. But the focus is upon the Tablets of the Law which can be seen and read "from both sides," with the identical result. What is the secret of this enigmatic teaching?