THE SPACE WE MAKE FOR YAHWEH

alternate textThere is a clear resemblance between the creation of the universe and the creation of the tabernacle. The creation of the universe took place in seven days. The creation of the tabernacle is described in seven passages, each one introduced by the words “And Yahweh spoke to Mosheh, saying …” The seven passages are (1) Exodus 25:1–30:10; (2) 30:11–16; (3) 30:17–21; (4) 30:22–33; (5) 30:34–37; (6) 31:1–11 and (7) 31:12–17. What is more, the creation or the building of the tabernacle includes a number of other sevens, among others: the seven arms of the menorah and the seven set-apart items of the clothing of the high priest. When comparing the creation of the universe with the creation of the tabernacle, it also becomes clear that the same kind of verbs are often being used: In the Genesis account it is often said that Elohim made (Heb: “asah”) certain things: the firmament (1:7); the two great lights (1:16) and the beasts of the earth (1:25). In the Exodus account the people also made (Heb: “asah”) certain things: the tabernacle itself (25:8); the ark (25:10); the table (25:23); the menorah (25:31); etc. In the Genesis account it is said that certain things were finished (Heb: “kalah”): the heaven and the earth (2:1) and the work that Elohim had made (2:2). In the Exodus account certain things were also finished (Heb: “kalah”): the work of the tabernacle (39:32) and the work (40:33). In Genesis 1:31 we read these words: “And Elohim saw (Heb “ra’ah”) all that He had made, and behold (Heb: “hinnay”), it was very good.” In Exodus 39:43 we read these words: “And Mosheh saw (Heb: “ra’ah”) all the work and behold (Heb: “hinnay”) they did it as Yahweh had commanded”. And the aspect of blessing is seen in both Genesis 2:3 (And Elohim blessed the seventh day and set it apart) and Exodus 39:43 (And Mosheh blessed the children of Yisrael).

Scriptural commentators are sometimes astounded by the amazing fact that the creation of the universe is described in Scriptures in something like 34 verses, while the creation of the tabernacle is described in hundreds of verses. We have already seen that in Exodus there are seven passages beginning with the words “And Yahweh spoke to Mosheh, saying…” – all connected to the building of the tabernacle. These, however, are not the only passages in Torah containing detail about the building of the tabernacle. And the building of the tabernacle is not described in one Torah portion only, not even two, but five (Terumah, Tetzaveh, part of Ki Tisa, Vayakhel and Pekudei)! Why is that? Is the tabernacle, and the building of the tabernacle, not a small, insignificant event, when compared with the creation of the universe? Someone has explained it as follows: “It is not difficult for an infinite, omnipotent creator to make a home (as in “creation”) for humanity. What is difficult is for human beings, in their finitude and vulnerability, to make a home (as in “tabernacle” or “dwelling place”) for Elohim.” This is one of the reasons why the building of the tabernacle takes up such a large proportion of the Torah. And that is also the reason why making a home or creating space for Yahweh in this world, is such an important part of what we are called to do while we are living in this world.

We realize, of course, that even the highest heavens cannot contain the Almighty, as Shelomoh realized when he was given the task of building the temple. But somehow the Almighty, being the great and incomparable and infinite Elohim that He is, has always desired to have communion and intimacy with his people living on earth. Some commentators have interpreted the words of Song of Songs 5:1 (“I have come to my garden, My sister, my bride …”) as a hidden message of the Almighty, saying to his people, his bride, that He had once (in the beginning) come to the garden to live in close proximity with the first people on earth, but that didn’t work out. But that doesn’t mean that He wouldn’t do it again. He is still the Creator who created man in his image and it is still his desire to have some space within the lives of the people He created. The garden is still his garden and the people are still his people. The question is: Have we succeeded in making room for Him in our lives? Have we succeeded, and are we succeeding, in our weakness and our self-centeredness, to make a home for Elohim, here on earth, among ourselves, and amidst our extremely busy time schedules and programs?

Like a good Father Yahweh lets go of his children and allows them to learn to walk, make their own decisions and follow their own dreams, even if they stumble and fall in the process. He gives them their space and their world to live in. What we need to understand, however, is that even though Yahweh respects our choices and had given each one of us a free will to decide for ourselves, He reserves certain areas of our existence here on earth for Himself. There are at least three of these areas that one may point out. The first is the area or the dimension of time. The seventh day and the seventh month and the seventh year and after each seven cycles of seven years, on the year of jubilee. All of these are times that Yahweh had set apart as his own and we need to take notice of, and respect, this very important fact. The second area is the dimension of intimate relationship. There are many peoples and nations on earth but Yahweh had chosen one nation as his own. With this nation and with those who identify with this nation, Yahweh chose to become intimately involved – teaching them, blessing them, disciplining them and preparing them for a great kingdom to come. And the third area is the dimension of space. The tabernacle, and later the temple and, on a secondary level (I believe), the kind of space we open up and create for Yahweh in our lives.

The Shabbat and the Feast Days are some of the things that are specifically referred to as “set-apart” in Scriptures. So also the entity called “The people of Yisrael” and so also the Tabernacle and the Temple. All of these are set-apart because Yahweh, the Almighty had reserved these for Himself. We are not supposed to tamper with that. Even the peoples and the nations of the world who do not recognize the authority of Yahweh, should not tamper with, or trample upon that which is specifically called “set-apart for Yahweh”. When they do that, they do so at their own peril – which means they will bear the dire consequences, in this world or in the world to come.

But today we have no tabernacle or temple, some people would say. Does that mean that we can neglect or discard the dimension of set-apart space in our lives? Certainly not. If it is true that Yahweh has never forsaken his people, even up to this day, then it is also true that He still remains deserving of allocated space in our lives. Not only space, in the sense of designated places of worship or places of assembly, but also space in the sense of taking his teachings into account in the decisions we make, in the words of our mouths and in the works of our hands. It should become part our lifestyle to create space for Yahweh and the Word of Yahweh and the mindset of Torah. In this kind of lifestyle we should be careful to remain grounded and practical and refrain from cheap talk and popular notions that cannot be backed up by Scriptures.

What does this mean? Let us look at one popular practice of our day, as an example. It is an amazing fact that many churches are continually emphasizing the principle of tithings, originating from the Torah, while they have absolutely no problem in neglecting almost every other aspect of Torah. In some churches it has become a habit to have a second sermon about tithings – every single time there is a meeting in that church. In these sermons, there is one truth that is almost always left out: The tithings spoken of in Torah were closely connected to the space that was set-apart for Yahweh – the tabernacle and later the temple. And the space that was set-apart for Yahweh was inseparably connected with articles like the Menorah, the Altar, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Torah it represented. You cannot highlight the tithings and completely disregard the Torah! To do that is to make a mockery of the Author of both the tithings and the Torah. More than that: to take one aspect of Torah, something you like, something that fits into your personal agenda, or something that will be to the benefit of people, and hammer on that aspect, at the cost of the bulk of Torah, is the exact opposite of creating space for Yahweh in your life. It is to rob the Almighty of his rightful place in one’s life and to exclude Him from certain areas – areas about which people silently say to themselves: “I cannot trust the Almighty with this area of my life.”

We have been created in the image of Elohim – also in the sense that we have the ability to make or to produce or to create something. Let us use this ability to create space for Yahweh in our lives. Not the kind of space that is merely some kind of lip service. But the kind of space that will allow us to come even closer to the Almighty, and that will allow Him to have an even greater impact in our lives and through us, in the lives of those around us!

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