Moving house is very traumatic. Do we declutter or keep everything? Just think of Golde in “Fiddler on the Roof”, forced to move away from her home in Anatevka.. What would be the things that you would never leave behind? How many of us still have in our possession candlesticks, a Hanukiah, Siddurim and Haggadot which came from our parents’ and even our grandparents’ home.
In this weeks’ Sedra God tell us to build a Mishkan, a sanctuary for his presence. The word Mishkan is related to the word Shekinah, the glory of God. We are given details of the Ark, the table, the Menorah, the tent, the curtains and the altar. All portable; well just about!
In time we would go on to build a temple but both the first and second temples were destroyed. On the Arch of Titus in Rome you can see the carving of the Menorah being carried away. The Menorah is the most ancient of the symbols of Judaism and actually predates other symbols of Western culture. What we often call a Menorah in our homes today is actually a Hanukiah with nine lights. In the 3rd to 5th centuries CE we saw the return of seven-branched Menorahs of the temple. This was stopped in the Islamic period because of a prohibition in the Babylonian Talmud. We, now, have proudly reclaimed the Menorah which stands outside the Knesset in Israel.
So where is our Mishkan today? It is in our homes and our Synagogues, around our tables and within our families and communities. It holds memories. It is still portable, but it is still where God resides.