Posted on March 1, 2011 by Avi Strausberg
in this week’s parsha, פקודי, the משכן is finally built. thanks to the work of bezalel and his team of craftsmen, the tabernacle, the priestly clothing, and all of their accoutrements are constructed exactly as God commanded through moshe. God then instructs moshe to set up the משכן on the 1st of the 1st month, with its tables and breads, its altars and incense, its lamps and lavers exactly in the proscribed locations. sure enough, the 1st of the 1st month of the 2nd year rolls around, and the Torah then details the work of the lone artist moshe setting up the משכן exactly as commanded.
the solo work and the precision required strikes me as a theatrical production, finally culminating in the finished piece, the house of God, center stage. piece by piece, he builds the house from discarded objects, old car parts, worn tires, thought to be without beauty or holiness. however, once annointed with oil and consecrated to God, these objects come together to form the holiest of all places, the משכן. as moshe stands back to admire his work, or cowers somewhere off left in awe of what the israelites have together created, the cloud of God takes its place over God’s new house, a fire blazing within. moshe and the audience look on in some mix of reverence, fear, devotion. the stage is enveloped in silence. or an increasingly dramatic piece of classical music plays from an old boombox in the corner.
as one way of envisioning the work of moshe and the setting up of the משכן, i appreciated looking to the opening stage directions of charles mee’s play, “the house of cards.”
The piece plays out at a very slow, dream-like pace.
The setting is beautiful, exquisite.
A live tree is to one side.
Elsewhere is a woman with a cello.
A man builds a house of cards throughout the entire piece
so that the house of cards becomes a vast, elaborate structure. (charles mee)
he enters alone,
tentatively, he begins
work of precision.
a mounting tension,
as pieces come together,
his purpose realized.
may we find holiness in our work and purpose in our hands,