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Starry, Starry Night

Moses instructs Israel to assemble the Tabernacle (Mishkan) in Parashat Vayakhel (Ex. 35:1–38:20). The Sages speak of the Mishkan as a model for the cosmos, including our world. The Talmud (Shabbat 99a) relates how the beautiful tapestries and curtains within the Mishkan symbolized the skies and the gold fasteners that secured the curtains to the Mishkan, shined like the stars at night.

“G-d….stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in” - Isaiah 40:22

Rav Kook wrote that the gold fasteners for the curtains to the interior conveyed a lesson in celestial mechanics—in the same way that the fasteners held the tapestries in place, making the Mishkan a stable unit—the stars have a very similar function.

We may think that only the moon exerts influence on the earth’s oceans but all the stars affect our planet. In Job 38:31, he is asked if he can, “Bind the chains of Kimah?” The latter is another name for the constellation Pleiades and, according to the Talmud in Berakhot 59a, G-d brought the Flood of Noach by removing two stars from the Pleiades. The prophet Amos alludes to this process:

'It is [HaShem] that builds His upper chambers in the heavens, and has founded His stairway in the earth; he that calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the face of the earth: the Lord is his name.” - Amos 9:6

Rav Kook also said that the true purpose of the stars was, “…to bind together the forces of the world, making the universe one.”

Our location in the solar system, along with our position in relation to the surrounding cosmos, according to science, made it possible for life to burst forth and be sustained. It is a scientific concept called The Habitable Zone. According to what we have just read about the Flood of Noach and the "mechanics" that unleashed that disaster, it was no cosmic accident but rather a phenomena caused by the Creator removing two stars from their place.

The parsha begins with the assembling of materials for building the Mishkan and as noted, the Mishkan is a model for creation. In the same way, Israel is following the Creator's example. The nation gave of their skills and their material wealth—as their hearts moved them— and built something fit for the Creator's presence. HaShem’s approval was a witness of His forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf.

The role of Israel in building the Mishkan—and later the Temple—reinforces the concept that man is co-creator with G-d, rebuilding the Temple and with it, the ultimate Unity.

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