Sabbath and the Tabernacle – Exodus 35:1
One of the central teachings of the Jewish Bible; a concept which stands at the heart of Judaism, is the idea of a temple for God. The God who created heaven and earth and all that fills it desires that man build a structure so that He can come and dwell amongst them. This concept is accentuated by having the Bible give us all the details of God’s commandment to Moses and then repeat all of these details in a description of the people’s fulfillment of this commandment. The same Bible which is so concise with its words spends several chapters describing the details of this tabernacle.
Furthermore; the concept of a Temple is placed at the center of the promise for the Messianic future. Not only is the Temple described as a focal point for all the nations to gather in service of their Creator (Isaiah 2:2; 56:7; 60:7; Zechariah 14:16), but the Temple is also portrayed as the ultimate and eternal sign for all the nations to know that God sanctifies Israel (Ezekiel 37:28).
With the importance and the centrality of the Temple in mind it is interesting to note that when Moses charges the people of Israel with the commandment of building this tabernacle he first warns them to do no work on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:1). Why was it necessary to first tell the people about the Sabbath before telling them about the construction of the Temple? What is the connection between these two commandments?
Just as the Temple is a sign that God sanctifies Israel (Ezekiel 37:28) so it is with the Sabbath (Exodus 31:13). The Sabbath is an internal sign for Israel while the Temple testifies to the nations of the world that it is God who sanctifies Israel.
What is sanctity? The Hebrew word for sanctity is the same Hebrew word that is used to describe the Temple: “Mikdash”.
The Kotzker Rebbe once said that God dwells where you let Him in.
You see; God cannot dwell where people think that they are lord (Proverbs 16:5) but He dwells with the lowly of spirit who tremble at His word in complete recognition that He alone is Lord (Isaiah 66:2).
The concept of a Temple requires that Israel’s king will stand before the Creator of all and address Him with the words: “I have indeed built a house of habitation for You; an established place for your dwelling forever” (1Kings 8:13).
Had there been one drop of haughtiness in that statement; one drop of self-righteousness or one drop of the sense of “my own hand has accomplished” – then the house that Solomon built would have been the last place in which God would allow His presence to be manifest. If the people who built the tabernacle would have done so with a feeling of lordship and power then they would have been moving in the very opposite direction of building a dwelling place for God.
The sanctuary that Israel built was inlaid with love (Song of Solomon 3:10) and every facet of the myriad details that made up the tabernacle was suffused with humility. Every brick of the Temple and every last molecule of the tabernacle was permeated with the knowledge that God alone is Lord and that all of our actions and all of our love every breath and our very existence are all but a gift from the One Creator of heaven and earth.
It is the Sabbath that plants this knowledge into Israel’s national consciousness. By refraining from work on the Sabbath we come face to face with the truth that our ability to work is not intrinsically ours. By separating ourselves from our own mundane activities on the Sabbath we come face to face with the truth that the world and everything that is in it is not ours; we are not the Masters, but that it belongs to the One who created it and created us.
If a nation is going to build a sanctuary, a place in which God’s absolute sovereignty is manifest, then they need to first be sanctified by the Sabbath.
You see; God only dwells where you let Him in.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal