At the end of exile comes the cloud, the in-dwelling presence of YHWH, the Shekhinah. It seems a common (if not perhaps universal) human desire for what William James called the MORE, that experience of oneness, of awe, of in-breathing, of breaking down the barriers between self and cosmos. P’kudei continues the long, repetitive description of offerings, processes, plans, and building of the Mishkan/Ohel but the patterns that emerge in the text possibly point to a metaphor for the struggle to draw forth, hamshakhah, the MORE into the everyday world of work and life.
With each passing passage of the accounting of the building materials and of the avodah of construction comes the phrase “as YHWH commanded.” A description of the dedication (chanukah?) of the mishkan through anointing and hallowing the structure, the clothing, and the priests follows the accounting. And the whole sidrah is capped off with the descent of the presence of YHWH to dwell with Israel in “all their journeys.” Here human labor becomes the dwelling place of the divine; work becomes a means to experience the holy; by extension, could this be a way to think of daily labor, daily banal deeds? Or is it limited to the creation of structures and ritual objects? Limited to the priests?
The students of the Maggid took this one step further by seeing the whole thing as a physical manifestation of a spiritual process. While maintaining the historical importance of Israel’s history, the early hasidic rabbis saw in the construction of the Mishkan in the wilderness to end the exile as an allegory for the inner wilderness where the soul wanders, and to the ability of the soul to build its inner mishkan, to labor to create within oneself a space for the divine by constructing a mishkan of mitzvot and the whole Torah, both written and oral. The Orah le-Hayyim taught that the intention of the builders of the Mishkan was so strong that it evoked desire within the Shekhinah to dwell among them; the individual’s intention in doing mitzvot and in studying torah can cause the Shekhinah to dwell within her or him, making the individual a Tabernacle of Testimony.
Rabbi Or Rose teaches that in these passages there is a tension between the Hasidic teaching that the entire earth, all of creation, is filled with the presence of YHWH, but that we must build the mishkan within in order to feel, experience, see that presence. The tension is resolved because the immanence makes the experience possible. But it is only available to us through our own effort to build the mishkan.