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 There is traditional opinion in the works of the commentators to Torah that the construction of the Mishkan/Tabernacle was a form of atonement for the sin of the Jewish people in erecting and worshipping the Golden Calf. So to speak, gold atones for gold. Gold well spent on holiness and goodness atones for gold badly misspent on idolatry and wanton behavior.

This idea is very much in line with the Jewish concept of repentance, which sees the penitent being in the same position and circumstances as when he originally sinned but no longer behaving sinfully in those circumstances. It is truly wise to avoid temptation but it is heroic and noble to overcome it.
The Mishkan/Tabernacle and the priestly garments were to be constructed from gold, silver, fine wood, precious stones and diamonds, valued by humans as possessions of pleasure of this world. People steal and kill, work long and hard hours and years, in order to acquire these physical items. They have greatly inflated importance in human eyes, far beyond their actual value and true worth.
But since the Torah was not addressed to angels but rather to humans, the Torah instructs us to consecrate these material gifts to lofty, spiritual and eternal purposes, and to take weapons used many times unfortunately for evil and base goals and convert them to tools of beneficence and purpose.
God does not need our wealth nor does He require buildings for His presence to be felt in this world. Rather, it is this lesson of being able to harness everything – even gold and diamonds – for noble purposes. And this is the true challenge in life – consecrating the mundane and impure to holiness.
This is the attitude of Judaism towards the so-called pleasures of the world. We are not a nation of monks or ascetics. We are meant to be a kingdom of priests who serve God and humankind and a holy nation. Holiness is the ability to take the realities of life and deal with them in an exalted and immortal fashion. There was a famous dictum/motto attributed to Rav Kook that pretty much said it all regarding this matter: “To renew and refresh the old and to sanctify the new.”
We live in a transformative generation regarding communication and interpersonal connections. Unfortunately, much of this technological achievement has been exploited for base and harmful purposes. We have not as of yet been able to convert the materials of the Golden Calf into a Mishkan/Tabernacle. Our generation, especially its younger members are struggling mightily with this issue.
Much of the future structure of our society is dependent on how this struggle will eventually resolve itself. As we read in Terumah this week, if we can wrest away these valuables from being servants of the Golden Calf and use them to construct our individual and national Mishkan/Tabernacle, then the Lord has assured us that he will dwell within us, in our homes and in our lives.       
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

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