Parashat Pekudei

God is in the Details

The Torah teaches us to think globally and act locally.

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We tend to think of revelation as a grand event--the splitting of the sea, the thunder of Sinai--yet the verses detailing the Mishkan's construction suggest that a revelation of God can also be born out of attention to the smallest details. This is the implication of the final verses of Parshat Pekudei:

"And God spoke to Moses, saying: On the first day of the first month shall you set up the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting. And you shall put in it the Ark of the Testimony, and hang the veil before the Ark. And you shall bring in the table, and set in order the things upon it; and you shall bring in the candlestick, and light its lamps. And you shall set the altar of gold for incense before the Ark of the Testimony, and put the screen of the door to the tabernacle. And you shall set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting… (Exodus 40:1-7)"

"Thus did Moses, according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did… Then a cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Glory of God filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud rested on it, and the Glory of God filled the Mishkan (Exodus 40:16, 33-38)."

These passages tell us that through the precise alignment of details, something infinitely greater than the parts can be revealed.

The Minutia of Mitzvot

This idea is reflected in the path of mitzvot (commandments) as a whole. Many spiritual seekers are often frustrated and baffled by the Torah's unending concern with the minutia of religious observance. Yet here, too, the Torah is telling us that through the careful arrangement of the details of life, something much greater--a revelation of Divinity on a personal level--can take place.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz sums this up as follows: "The system of the mitzvot constitutes the design for a coherent harmony, its separate components being like the instruments of an orchestra. So vast is the harmony to be created by this orchestra that it includes the whole world and promises the perfecting of the world. Seeing the mitzvot in this light, one may understand on the one hand, the need for so great a number of details and, on the other, the denial of any exclusive emphasis on any one detail or aspect of life. The mitzvot as a system include all of life, from the time one opens one's eyes in the morning until one goes to sleep, from the day of birth to the last breath (The Thirteen Petaled Rose)."

The Midrash above compares the Mishkan to the work of creation. I believe that this parallelism can be applied in both directions. Just as the Mishkan became a dwelling for God's Presence through proper attention to its myriad details, so the creation itself can be redeemed and transformed into a setting for revelation through the proper care and orchestration of all its elements.

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Rabbi Eliezer Shore received his doctorate from Bar-Ilan University on the subject of Language and Mystical Experience in the Thought of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. He currently teaches at various universities and colleges in Israel, and writes on the topic of Jewish spirituality.