Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In Exodus chapter 25, parshat Terumah, we read about the divine commandment to build for God a
sanctuary in the tabernacle. We also learn how this sacred structure was to be financed.

“And God spoke unto Moses saying: Speak to the Children of Israel, that
they take for Me an offering. Of every man whose heart makes him
willing, you shall take My offering….And let them make Me a sanctuary,
that I may dwell among them.”

Abravanel gets right to the point: Why did God command the Jews to build a sanctuary for Him? Is the
Creator a physical being, in need of shelter? Of course, any physicality attributed to the Maker ranks
preposterous, let alone despicable and untruthful. Wise Solomon, who built Jerusalem’s Holy Temple,
stated the thorny problem: “But will God in very truth dwell on earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven
of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this house that I have built?”

Here is a synopsis of Abravanel’s approach. “God forbid,” Abravanel categorically states, “that the
Creator is needful of a house with all its appurtenances.” Bible students, instead, should understand
this commandment as follows. The Tabernacle is an object lesson, a concrete reminder that God dwells
amidst the Hebrew encampment.

Each Jew must process and internalize that lofty message, so it becomes etched in his soul and fiber.
Song of songs alluded to God’s proximity this way: “He stands behind our wall. He looks through the
windows. He peers through the lattice.” The Creator watches every move, hears every thought.

The prophet Isaiah confirms this theological paradox of God’s infinitude and nearness. “Thus says God:
The heaven is My throne, and the earth My footstool. Where is the house that you may build unto Me?
And where is the place that may be My resting place? For all these things has My hand made…”

Abravanel puts his finger on the significance inherent in the Tabernacle. The divine edifice is designed in
order for Jews to know in their heart of hearts that the Creator’s providence cuddles the Chosen People.
Abravanel returns to Isaiah: “But on this man will I look, even on him that is poor and of a contrite spirit,
and trembles at My word.”

“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” See Abravanel’s World for the full
impact of this divine directive.