As we begin reading a series of portions about the building of the Mishkan, the project that would become Israel’s traveling sanctuary, let’s consider a fundamental question about building projects. Who’s more crucial to the project: the architect or the interior designer?
On the one hand, I would argue for the architect as follows: what good will the interior components of the Mishkan be if I don’t actually have a Mishkan? The exterior of the facility must then receive urgent attention.
On the other hand, I would argue for the interior design as follows: what good is a big hollow building if I don’t have anything with which to furnish it? The interior of the mishkan, then, must receive urgent attention.
As we consider the position we’d take in this argument, let’s look at what the Torah says. Parshat Terumah opens with God’s general command, “Build Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8) Then come the instructions, beginning with how to fashion the aron, the ark, followed by the plans for the Mishkan itself.
By the way, in subsequent weeks, when we read about the follow-through on the Mishkan project, we learn that Bezalel build the exterior first, and then the interior furnishings, contrary to the sequence of the instructions. What can we learn from this close textual reading? We’ll address this together on Shabbat morning.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov,
Rabbi David Wise