Construction in Jerusalem (archive)
Construction in Jerusalem (archive)Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin ([email protected])

The Torah portion we read describes the Mishkan, the sanctuary and spiritual center that accompanied the children of Israel in the desert. The Mishkan’s construction is described at length, down to the finest detail. What, in fact, is the importance of these small details?

Here are two explanations: Professor Dan Arieli calls this “The Ikea Effect.” If we buy a table that is already assembled, we feel much less attached to it that if we bought the parts of a table at Ikea and put them together ourselves. Similarly, the fact that we built the Mishkan ourselves meant that we were far more attached to it than if it had descended from heaven ready-made.

Professor Nechama Leibowitz pointed out that the creation of the world is described in 34 verses alone, while the construction of the Mishkan is described in more than 400 verses. How could it be that the entire cosmos, the stars, and the galaxies, the oceans and even the creation of Adam are briefly described, whereas the “synagogue” of the nation is described at length?

Professor Leibowitz explained that the Torah is not interested primarily in the universe, but rather in man. The Torah is less interested in what God does than in what man is meant to do in following God’s instructions. These explanations are pertinent not only to the desert Mishkan, but to all the small, routine, yet vital acts and mitzvahs that we do today.