In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Terumah, God asks Bnai Yisrael to donate materials for the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. The final product of the Mishkan will become a dwelling place for God as it states: “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). On this verse, the Midrash in Exodus Rabbah 33:1 asks, “Can you conceive of a transaction in which the seller is sold with his goods?!” The Midrash tells a story about a king whose daughter married another king.
Whenever the king’s son-in-law wished to return to his own country with his new wife, the king would tell his son-in-law: “I cannot say to you, ‘Don’t take her,’ for my daughter is now your wife. However, I ask of you that you wherever you go to live that you have a chamber for ready for me that I may dwell with you, for I cannot leave my daughter.” So too, the Midrash explains that God said to Israel: “I have given you a Torah from which I cannot part, and I also cannot tell you not to take it. But I request that wherever you go, make for Me a house in which I will be able to dwell.” God’s call for the construction of the Mishkan is often framed as God’s response to Bnai Yisrael’s needs to feel as if they have more access to God. This Midrash however teaches that the Mishkan was not only created to meet the needs of Bnai Yisrael but also to make God feel closer to God’s people.