More verses are devoted to the description of the instructions and construction of the Mishkan than any other project in the entire Bible. After no less than five parashot of detail, the project finally comes to an end in this week’s parasha.

We are told:

“So, all the work on the Mishkan, the Tent of Meeting was completed. The Israelites did everything exactly as the L-d had commanded Moses.” (Exodus 39:32)

Although the senior architect, Betzalel, and his assistant, Oholiav, were responsible for key components of construction, in the final description of the project, it is ascribed to the Israelites as a whole.

The great eighteenth century rabbi and kabbalist, Rabbi Chayyim ibn Attar (1696-1743) author of the commentary, Or HaChayim, writes that we have a principle in Jewish law, shelucho shel adam kemoto, – a person’s agent acts as if the person has undertaken the task himself. From that perspective, Betzalel and Oholiav could be seen as the agents of the Jewish people. Although they were the principal players, they acted on behalf of the people as a whole.

However, the Or HaChayim believes that there is a deeper lesson here. The verse is pointing out to us the interconnectedness of the Jewish people. The collaborative nature of the donation and construction of the Mishkan was a paradigm for Judaism as a whole. We all know that there are 613 mitzvot in the Torah. Yet no single person can keep all of them. Some relate to a king, some to a kohen. Some are exclusively for women and others are for men. Yet, as a people, together, we can collectively keep the whole Torah. The project of the Mishkan brought together all of the Jewish people. Some gave silver, some gave gold. Some spun thread, others embroidered fabrics. Some cast metal, others procured dyes. Some trapped animals, others turned wood.

The interlocking character of the numerous tasks necessary to create a Mishkan is symbolic of the reciprocal benefits we bring to one another when we, as a community, engage in Torah and Jewish life to the best of our abilities. Each one of us has something to contribute. Some may be better at prayer. Others at study. Some will volunteer to visit the housebound. Others will cook lunches for the elderly. Some have the resources to donate fulsomely. Others will give generously of their time. And of course, best of all, everyone can give a smile! When we build our House of G-d with our collective best efforts, we all gain.