Making Sense of the Mishkan
Post-Parsha Point: Terumah
In Parshas Terumah, God provides Moshe with instructions for building the Mishkan [Tabernacle] and its furnishings. There were a total five sacred objects in the mishkan, four of which are described in this parshah and one in next week's:
1) Aron: The ark which held the luchos, the tablets of the ten commandments
2) Shulchan: The table on which the lechem hapanim [show-bread] was arranged
3) Menorah: Candelabrum which was lit daily with pure olive oil
4) Mizbayach Hazahav: Golden altar used for incense
5) Mizbayach Hanechoshes: Copper altar used for sacrifices
It occurred to me yesterday* that there is remarkable correspondence between these five items which we were instructed to build for the holy service, and our five senses:
1) The Aron/Ark relates to hearing. It held the Torah, about which the Israelites said "naaseh v'nishmah" - "we will do and hear". And it was from the Ark cover that Moshe heard God's voice.
2) The Shulchan relates to taste. It represents the Divine table, and bread was kept on it constantly, replaced and eaten weekly by the Cohanim [priests].
3) The Menorah, shining with the light of pure olive oil, relates to sight.
4) The Mizbayach Hazahav, the altar for burning incense, relates to smell.
5) Finally, the Mizbayach Hanechoshes, the altar for sacrifices, relates to touch/feel. Of all the five sacred furnishings, it involved the most physical labor, both in degree and frequency - arranging wood, slaughtering beasts, carrying and sprinkling blood, burning fats and limbs, etc. In addition, the fire on this mizbayach was to burn constantly and provide warmth for the sanctuary.
Perhaps the lesson of this parallelism is that we must bring every aspect of ourselves to bear in worshipping God. As the five utensils of the mishkan encompassed our five senses, we should strive to elevate all of those senses to holiness.
* Note: I believe this idea is original; at least, I haven't seen in any of the classic sources. If anyone has, please let me know.