My friends are getting new furniture. And painting. And rearranging. They are spending a lot of time with paint chips, and catalogues, and at furniture stores.
And they are so happy with this project. And so excited to see how it will turn out. And, honestly, it’s amazing to watch. They are making their home reflect who they are. Who they have become over the years.
But there’s more. There’s a lot more at work. They are creating a space that will remind them of who they are. The colors they are choosing aren’t just pleasant to look at.
They are more.
Those colors are manifestations of who they are. And who their children are. And who they all are together, as a family. Even as their kids are getting older.
As they are painting and rearranging, they are noticing that things they’ve owned for years fit perfectly into the new places. That they match the new colors of the walls as if they’d gotten them with this house, this color, this corner in mind.
The hooks they are choosing to put up near their front door are more than a convenient place to hang coats. They are a welcome to those of us who visit. Their house is becoming a place to live their values, more and more.
So of course it makes them happy to do this work. And of course it makes me happy when my friend shows me ideas in catalogues and then waves her arm across the room to explain where a chair or a sofa might go. It is important work. Work filled with joy.
This week we read Ki Tissa (Shemot [Exodus] 30:11-34:35). It spends a lot of time on a shopping list. A shopping list of items to build the Mishkan. The dwelling place.
The Hebrew word: משכן, has the same root as one of the God’s Names: שכינה (Shekhina), which is how we refer to the Divine Presence. The Immanent God. It’s sort of the noun form of the idea of Being Present.
The Mishkan was temporary; it was taken down and set back up as the Israelites moved through the wilderness. It was a Place for the Present. No one was pretending it was permanent.
Then, a little way in–past the first part of the shopping list (Can you please pick up a copper basin for the priests to wash their hands in? Oh…right…also and myrrh—500 weight should be enough. And cinnamon…should I write this down for you?), we meet Bezalel.
.רְאֵה, קָרָאתִי בְשֵׁם, בְּצַלְאֵל בֶּן-אוּרִי בֶן-חוּר, לְמַטֵּה יְהוּדָה
.וָאֲמַלֵּא אֹתוֹ, רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, בְּחָכְמָה וּבִתְבוּנָה וּבְדַעַת, וּבְכָל-מְלָאכָה
See, I have called Bezalel…by name, and I have filled him with the Divine Spirit, wisdom, understanding, and the deepest knowledge of every craft…to design designs (to think thoughts)
Bezalel is chosen to be the master craftsman, the designer, of the Mishkan, the home for the Presence.
For a guy with no lines, Bezalel has a lot to do. And that name. Bezalel means “In the Shadow of God”
But Bezalel has within him some pretty remarkable gifts. The Divine Spirit. Wisdom. Understanding. The Deepest Knowledge. And, with these, he can design designs. Think thoughts.
He’s been called by name. He’s been given these amazing gifts. And all he has to do to make it happen is be himself. Be true to himself. Be present. He’s creating a home for that Presence. One that will be more than the copper, gold, silver, wood, cloth, spices, water, and fire that are going into it. They are lovely, these elements, but there’s so much more going on here.
So much more.
Because all these items, all these designs, and plans, and choice…all this work is about creating space for the Presence. One that’s a manifestation of the Divine within him and that can only happen with all that work. That work to build something that manifests that Divine within all of us.
Spirit. Wisdom. Understanding. Deepest Knowledge. We all have them. It’s just that sometimes they are in the shadows.
My friends are busy at their work. Similar work. Maybe even the same work. Building their own space for the Shekhina. For the Present. And all they have to do is be themselves.
And they are having so much fun.