This week’s Torah portion, Pekudei, (Ex. 38:21 – 40:38) is the last portion in the book of Exodus. It gives a detailed accounting of the materials used in the building of the Tabernacle, and describes its assembling. In the final verses of the book of Exodus, we are told that God’s presence, in the form of a pillar of cloud, comes to dwell in the sanctuary. This monumental event is described as follows, “When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle” (Ex. 40:33-34).
The Hebrew reads, “Va’y’chal Moshe et ha’m’lacha”. Its words are reminiscent of Genesis 2:1, in which God finished the work of Creation just before Shabbat: “Va’y’chal Elohim…m’lachto” – “And God finished His work”.
There are many ways in which the Israelites’ construction of the Tabernacle is analogous to God’s creation of the world. Here is one to consider on this Shabbat eve: What does it mean to be created in God’s image? I believe it means that we are like God in that we have been given the power to create. We are able to envision and build works of great beauty and meaning. These former slaves, whose previous building experience had been hard labor in constructing cities for the glory of a Pharaoh, have now, of their own free will and spirit, created a place where they may worship the indwelling presence of God. As they did, so may our own work reflect God’s glory, and may God’s presence dwell within our body of work as it dwelt in the Tabernacle in the wilderness.