“G-d formed the human from the dust of the earth.  Blowing into his nostrils the breath of life, the human became a living being.”  (Gen 2:7).  The soul, given by G-d, animates the human, which is nothing but dust until awakened with feeling and color, and something mystical that goes beyond name. 

There is something of this in the art that we, humans, create too.  Art is a piece of how we emulate the Divine in this world.  We put together raw materials and create an object of function.  But a true artist adds something more – some piece of soul or color that breathes life into what was once an empty object and elevates it into art. 

A sewist or knitter can follow a pattern, but if you look at the hundreds of versions of something created from a pattern, some have that little something extra whereas others just appear to be simply yarn or fabric connected by stitches.  This is the difference between a crafter and an artist, and this is what was needed in the creation of the Mishkan.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read “Take from among you gifts to G-d; everyone whose heart is so moved shall bring them—gifts for G-d: gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple, and crimson yarns, fine linen, and goats’ hair; tanned ram skins, dolphin skins, and acacia wood; oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the aromatic incense; lapis lazuli and other stones for setting, for the ephod and the breastpiece. And let all among you who are skilled come and make all that G-d has commanded.” (Ex 35:5-10)

In order to create a sacred space where G-d can dwell among us, there must be a partnership in the building of the space.  G-d gives us the pattern, people come with supplies, and finally those who are skilled come forward to yield art in which spirit can dwell.  Again and again we hear about how everyone whose heart moved them brought the ingredients – the gold and silver, the precious stones and colorful yarns, and that all those endowed with skill came forth to work. 

It is inspiring to imagine the people arriving with their donations – so many that Moses had to ask them to stop.  It is moving to envision the coming together of men and women – and yes the Torah specifically mentions both men and women were involved in this – to create this sacred space – following a Divine pattern and guided by their Divinely inspired gifts. 

On Shabbat the work had to cease.  All the inspired, artistic, and inventive creation involved in building the Tabernacle stopped while room instead was made for an entirely different sacred space – an internal opening in which humanity and G-d could dwell together in the time set apart as holy.  In the sacred minutes set aside for Shabbat neither human being nor G-d would engage in the work of creation of anything at all, but would rather bask in the beauty of what they had done together already.  This was a time for the Divine breath to simply exist within the human being.  To flow in and out with no other purpose other than to simply be – breath and body, soul and flesh – resting, reflecting, and being.  There is an art in this too – an art of stillness and quiet.  G-d created Shabbat and all we have to do to partner in it is make the space for it to exist.