Indeed 1 Corinthians 13:3states, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
Avos d’Rabbi Nosson, a classic Jewish commentary, echoes this when it says, “If one gives his fellow all the good things in the world but with a sullen face, it is as if he has given nothing.”
The offering to build God’s house cannot be given with a sullen face. It is intended to be an act of worship that elevates us spiritually.
The root of terumah, R-U-M, means exalted, uplifted, fortified or encouraged.
An offering to build God’s first Sanctuary was to be given with a pure attitude of worship, so God made it a freewill offering.
Still, even though it was a freewill act of worship, the children of Israel could not build a Sanctuary for God any old way they wanted.
They had to build it according to a specific pattern, the pattern that was shown Moses on the mountain. (Exodus 25:9)
Why an Earthly Sanctuary
Why does a non-earthly, omnipresent God require a specific, physical earthly space to dwell in?
Even God Himself said, “Heaven is My Throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where could you build a house for Me? What place could possibly serve as My abode?” (Isaiah 66:1)
In this week’s Haftarah (Prophetic portion), King Solomon, the wisest man on earth, builds the First Temple, using the plans and resources given to him by David.
It is to be a permanent place for the Shekinah or Divine Presence to reside, and it is located in Jerusalem.
When Solomon dedicates that Temple, he underscores that God is so vast that heaven and earth cannot contain Him.
“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain You. How much less this Temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)
It is both humbling and inspiring to realize that God’s Shekinah (Divine Presence) would rest in a structure made by human hands. Even prayers made toward this Temple would move the heart of God.
“May your eyes be open toward this Temple night and day, this place of which You said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that You will hear the prayer Your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive.” (1 Kings 8:29–30)
So why does God want the Israelites to put forth all the time, expense, and effort to construct an elaborate sanctuary as His abode?
One reason is that building it is an act of teshuvah (repentance) for making the Golden Calf.
The Israelites panicked when they thought Moses was not going to come down from Mount Sinai.
After coming out of Egypt where every god was put on display, the Israelites craved some tangible reminder of who they were following and worshiping.
Fearful that they had lost Moses, whom they had chosen as their intermediary because the manifest glory of God terrified them, they told his brother Aaron, “Come, make us gods who will go before us.” (Exodus 32:1)
So, they made the Golden Calf and worshiped it.
According to traditional Jewish thinking, God contracted or contained (mitzamtzem) His Presence because the Israelites were not yet ready to live in God’s revealed presence.
God made for them an earthly representation of His heavenly dwelling—a pattern of the most holy place in Heaven where God sits on His throne.
In a way, the Mishkan filled a void or emptiness in the people, and God called His people to partake in filling that void, causing the Israelites to become His active partners in bringing holiness to the world.
The Mishkan (Tabernacle) served a temporary purpose where the people could follow and worship God; however, like much of God’s work on earth, it also served as a pattern of a Heavenly reality that will one day be revealed in its fullness:
“After this I looked, and I saw in Heaven the Temple—that is, the Tabernacle of the covenant law—and it was opened.” (Revelation 15:5)
When Yeshua (Jesus) who is Immanuel (God with us) returns—and that time is not too far away—the world will never be the same.
In the New Jerusalem, we will see and worship God in His fullness and He will dwell with us forever.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell (shokhen) with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3–4)