“So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year” Exodus 40:17


It is well-known that in Jewish symbolism, seven signifies nature and eight symbolises something beyond nature. That is why the world was created in seven days but a boy is given his circumcision on the eighth day. 

The number seven also plays a major part in the construction of the Tabernacle, which is dedicated at the end of Pekudei. The instructions to build it were given in seven speeches, and used seven types of material. The menorah held seven lights and all was completed on Rosh Hashanah.

We usually think of the Tabernacle as a supernatural place. Yet, the preponderance of the number seven, and not the number eight, suggests that the Tabernacle was part of the natural order of the world. This may be another expression of the Torah’s idea that a sacred place on earth does not make it unworldly; in fact the world is supposed to be the location of holiness. 

Some holiness is entirely removed from our experience: heaven, the world to come and, of course, the Divine itself. But there is also holiness which is part of the natural order and is rooted in our familiar existence. Our task is not to divide between the holy and the profane, but to bring the holy into the mundane.

The Tabernacle was certainly a special place, but it was made of textile, metal, wood and other regular materials. It was the strongest symbol of the interconnectedness of the sacred and the ordinary. The same is true today. We can take flour and water, some yeast and sugar, and make challah, for our holy Shabbat tables. We can scoop out a ram’s horn and make a shofar for Rosh Hashanah. We can take our everyday lives and infuse them with holiness through what we do and the way we do it.

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