Weekly Torah Portion: Symbolism in the Tabernacle

Mar 4, 2016

Here the High Priest is pictured in his priestly garments, surrounded by the furniture of the Tabernacle. [Image: Holman Bible / Wiki Commons]

Here the High Priest is pictured in his priestly garments, surrounded by the furniture of the Tabernacle. [Image: Holman Bible / Wiki Commons]

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This portion reiterates much of what was written in the previous three Torah portions. The order, however, is different. Whereas Moses was first instructed regarding the inner vessels of the Tabernacle, then its outer structure, then the outer vessels, here we see that Bezalel and his team first constructed the parts for the Tabernacle’s structure — its various curtains, planks and sockets — then the Ark, Table and Menorah with their attending utensils, and finally the vessels of the courtyard — the Incense Altar, the larger Altar of Elevation Offerings and the Laver — along with the enclosure of the courtyard itself.

The Tabernacle and its vessels are rife with symbolism and lessons. As the Israel Bible explains, the woven fabrics of the Tabernacle were so unique, that when similar fabrics are described in the Book of Esther as adorning King Ahasuerus’s palace, the Sages learned that the Temple treasures which were looted during the fall of the Judean Kingdom made their way to the Persian treasury. Those Jews who elected not to attend Ahasuerus’s grand party in the beginning of the story were demonstrating their loyalty to God and mourning the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem.

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The Menorah, which was made of pure gold and burned pure olive oil, represents the duty of the Jewish people to serve as a Light unto the Nations. As the Israel Bible indicates, the purity of the materials reflects the pure intentions needed to spread the light of Torah and God’s will.

The laver was made of copper mirrors, donated specifically by the women of Israel. The Israel Bible references a tradition from the Sages that the women used these mirrors in Egypt to beautify themselves for the sakes of their husbands upon their return from a hard day’s labor. These women never forgot God’s promise of redemption and worked to ensure the continuity of the nation using these mirrors. They were therefore worthy of being used in the Tabernacle.

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