No will, No worship
Trumah (Contributions) Exodus/Sh’mot 25:1-27:19
Haftorah Reading: I Kings 5:12-6:13
I want us to concentrate our study today on one particular verse. I want us to look at Exodus 25:2. I am sure we have looked at this verse before, however, today I want us to look at it from a viewpoint we may not have considered before.
In this verse we read the offering brought to the L-rd was to come from only those people who were moved to give willingly. It could come from both male and female Israelites. This offering was for the specific purpose of constructing the Mishkan. So this offering was to include all the people not a select few. The purpose of the offering is clearly stated in Exodus 25:8. There we read, “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell in their midst.” The Mishkan was to be constructed in such a way that it was mobile and could be moved. It would need to be transported wherever the people journeyed. It was used for the duration of the exodus and for many years once the people arrived in the Promised Land. Most importantly the Mishkan was to be a visible, tangible reminder that the L-rd was dwelling among them. The very word for the structure has at its root, neighbor or neighborhood. I would pray each of us can feel that same assurance that G-d is always with us. He abides in our heart.
Now I want us to look at another important lesson we can learn from this verse and from this entire portion. Israel had this flimsy portable structure as their center of worship well into their arrival into the land. After almost 400 years in the land King Solomon began the construction of the first temple. King David had wanted to build the temple but was forbidden by G-d because David had shed a great deal of blood during his life. So this task was to be the work of his son Solomon. (I Kings 6:1) In some ways this building was to be a symbol of the ending of wandering since leaving Egypt for the Israelites. It was to be the final chapter to the long exile of the people of Israel.
However, Solomon, as we know from scripture, in many ways did not have a successful reign as king. Scripture tells us he had many foreign wives who brought their gods with them. But that was not his only problem. His main failing was the way he went about building the Temple. In I Kings 5:13-18 we read where King Solomon conscripted laborers to do the work of gathering materials and building the structure. Volunteers were not sought after but rather people were forced to work. This is a glaring difference between the Mishkan verses we read in this portion.
Not long after Solomon’s death the kingdom of Israel underwent a rebellion and the ten northern tribes chose Jeroboam as their king. The two remaining tribes chose Rehoboam as their king. Before this split we read in I Kings 12:3-4 the following, “So they (the people) sent for Jeroboam and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him, your father put a heavy yoke on us but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” Rehoboam’s advisor advised him to accede to the people’s request. I Kings 12:7. However he was influenced by his friends to ignore their advice. Instead Rehoboam told the people he would increase their burden, not reduce it.
Now I go through this story to bring out several things that might give us some insight in understanding these events. When we look at these words and go back to the exodus of the people from Egypt, we see several things that may give us a clue to these verses in I Kings and our portion concerning the building of the Mishkan. The words, harsh labor, used in I Kings by Rehoboam appears also in Exodus 1:14 describing the enslavement of the Jews by Pharaoh.
After the death of Solomon the people used the words, heavy yoke, to describe what Solomon did to them in their conscription and hard work. These same words are used in Exodus 6:6 to describe how Pharaoh treated them as slaves in Egypt. These along with other words used in I Kings brings up the comparison of King Solomon and Pharaoh in their treatment of the Israelites. In our verses in I Kings scripture is making the point that Israel was reliving their slavery in Egypt. So even though Solomon was described as Israel’s wisest king he also brought back images of Egypt and slavery. This laid the ground work for the split of the tribes after Solomon’s death. Also remember that at this time, on the surface, Israel seemed to be at the apex of their power and strength. Yet these fault lines were appearing and forecast the eventual decline and splitting of the kingdom. A nation built on freedom had digressed back to slavery again. They lost their closeness to G-d in the process.
Which brings me to my whole point of this portion, faith coerced is not faith. Worship forced is not worship. The Tabernacle, though small and fragile was founded on the voluntary contributions of material, money and labor. This is reminding us that G-d does not live in houses of wood and stone but in the minds and hearts of free committed to G-d people. He is found in a willing heart.
May that always be our motive and pattern of our connection and worship of Him, the true lover of our soul.