Every four years, in honor of the Olympic Games, tens of billions of dollars are expended and a virtual city is constructed – only to be abandoned a few weeks later. Thousands of years ago, our Jewish ancestors recognized what a waste of gelt this was (not to mention the excessive physical labor) and came up with a much more efficient plan: Why not build a portable, collapsible structure? Thus the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was born.
Of course, it was not pure economics that influenced their decision-making, but a direct command from God. Our parashah states, “These are the accounts of the Mishkan, the Mishkan…” (Exodus 38:21). The Torah repeats the word “Mishkan” in order to teach us that the Tabernacle’s sacred status remained the same whether it was assembled or disassembled. Thus, our Sages state that even when the Mishkan is in pieces, it still protects the Jewish people (Shemot Rabbah 31:9). The Jews would travel through the desert carrying with them the various pieces of the Mishkan to demonstrate to future generations that although the Mishkan may no longer be assembled, it still protects the Jewish people.
The Jews received the command to construct the Mishkan after the sin of the golden calf. It was then, in a state of abject lowliness, that Moshe was able to peer into us and reveal our intrinsic goodness. Only because of Moshe’s revelation were the Jews able to donate all kinds of precious stones and materials towards the construction of the Mishkan. These materials are a reflection of the multitude of good points in every single Jew, no matter how low he has sunk.
Just as the Jews traveled from place to place through a desolate and dangerous wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, so do each of us travel through life’s ups and downs on our way to our ultimate goal. And just as they had Moshe to reveal their true essence and good points so they could construct the Mishkan, we have the Tzaddikim, who reveal our good points and help us build the spiritual essence of the Tabernacle.
Someone once asked Reb Noson, “Who is greater? One who performs great devotions, or one who behaves more simply yet follows the Tzaddik?” Reb Noson replied, “Look at the building of the Mishkan. No matter what the person contributed, if he did not bring it to Moses first, it had no value or place in the Tabernacle. Yet if the simplest Jew made the most insignificant item and brought it to Moses, it was assured its place in the Tabernacle!” (Aveneha Barzel #62).
No matter where we go or what we go through, we are always able to connect ourselves directly to God with the help of the Tzaddikim. Living according to their counsel and with faith in their abilities allows us to transform even a spiritual desert into a virtual Sanctuary. For the Tzaddik reveals our true good nature and spiritual capacity. And even if all we can contribute is a small act of goodness or a seemingly “simple” mitzvah, this, too, the Tzaddik will include in the construction of the spiritual Mishkan and the resultant manifestation of God’s Presence in the world and in our individual lives.
Based on Likutey Moharan I, 292 & Likutey Halachot 1, p. 260