By Rabbi Daniel Lapin
June 1, 2011
I used to teach Torah to an audience of Jewish atheists. They were secular and skeptical but also curious and intellectually honest. I greatly enjoyed our weekly meetings. I felt humbled when most of them embraced God and His word, becoming observant Jews.
They challenged me with great questions including this one:
The last fifteen chapters of the book of Exodus are devoted almost entirely to mind-numbing, tedious and trivial details about the construction of the Tabernacle. Considering that this Tabernacle was to be built only once, surely you’d agree that instead of fifteen chapters, these imaginary two verses would have sufficed:
1: While in the desert, Moses and the Israelites built a big, beautiful Tabernacle.
2: Those of you obsessed with detail will find fifteen explanatory chapters in an appendix at the back of this volume.
That way, the rest of us could continue with the narrative instead of being bogged down by how columns were connected and how curtains were hung.
But, no. Every chapter in the Five Books of Moses, including these fifteen detailing the Tabernacle, is an indispensable part of the comprehensive blueprint of reality we call the Torah.
Let me pick just one example out of hundreds to illustrate how the Tabernacle’s details exude practical life guidance.
In the 25th chapter of Exodus God directs Moses:
And they shall make me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8)
The chapter concludes with instructions to make the Ark of the Covenant, the Table, and the Menorah.
God then directs how He wants the walls of the Tabernacle to be built and assembled, among other specifics.
When the construction actually begins, in chapter 35, the sequence you see will astound you.
Wouldn’t you expect the project to proceed in the same order in which it was first designed? The artisans working under Bezalel should first make the Ark of the Covenant, the Table and the Menorah. Then they should move on to the walls and assemble the structure.
That is not what happens. They first build the walls and assemble them. Then they finally make the Ark, the Table, and the Menorah (Exodus 37).
The original order in Scripture is meant for us, not Bezalel. It is to teach each of us in every generation a permanent principle. In the design phase of a project, focus on the most important thing. Later, during execution, proceed step by step in a logical sequence.
The essence of the Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant, followed by the Table and the Menorah. Thus they were mentioned first. The primary purpose of the structure subsequently discussed in chapter 26 was to house the most important elements.
Obviously when it was time to execute the plan in Exodus 36, they built the walls and structure first. Otherwise there would have been nowhere to house the Ark, Table, and Menorah.
Regardless of whether you are building a skyscraper, a yard shed, a family or a business, you need to wrap yourself around this rule until it becomes part of your thinking.
Don’t dream of a building until you are very clear on what its purpose will be. Later, you can lay bricks and laminate beams.
Don’t seek a spouse until you know exactly what your future family’s purpose and mission will be. Later, you can discover the best way to meet other singles.
While conceiving a business plan, focus on the large picture. What service will you provide? How will you make a profit? Without that, you will have no business. Once that is clear, you must find office space, hire help, and execute your plan in a coherent way.
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Discover the Ark – the guiding principle -- in your own projects. Once you have a commitment to and clear picture of your final goal, start eagerly working on the sometimes mundane and tedious steps which will lead you there.
If drawing closer to God is one of your project goals, then acquiring deeper insights into God’s Word is a logical step to take. May I suggest listening to my audio CD, Festival of Lights, which contains practical guidance which I hope is neither mundane nor tedious.
© 2011 Rabbi Daniel Lapin - All Rights Reserved
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Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America's Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, best-selling author and host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show on San Francisco’s KSFO. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths. In 2007 Newsweek magazine included him in its list of America’s fifty most influential rabbis.
You can contact Rabbi Daniel Lapin through his website.
Web Site: www.rabbidaniellapin.com