The final chapters of the book of Exodus are largely concerned with the construction of the tabernacle—the portable precursor to the First Temple—used by the Israelites in the wilderness. After examining how these passages were understood by Christian theologians in Reformation-era England, Ranana Dine examines what can be gleaned from uniquely rabbinic readings:
For the [talmudic] rabbis, the tabernacle reflects God’s own creation of the world and other aspects of divinity—the command to the Israelites to construct the building is [a way in which He allows] people [to serve] as partners in divine creation. . . .
[The 20th-century exegete] Nechama Leibowitz, drawing on [these] earlier commentators, has drawn parallels between the Bible’s description of the tabernacle’s construction and the first creation narrative in Genesis. In particular, many of the verbs, such as “saw,” “blessed,” and “completed” occur in both texts, giving the impression that the construction of the tabernacle requires the same actions as God’s creation of the world. . . .
[In light of such interpretations], it is possible to read these passages . . . as suggesting that artistic creation—designing, construction, crafting—can be part of divine work, part of godly creation, and perhaps even require a bit of the divine spirit. By weaving or chiseling we too can participate in a type of creation, although we lack the [explicit] divine command today to build a dwelling place for God. . . . [Thus, in] Jewish theology, the beauty of the tabernacle and the Temple is godly in its essence, containing the traces of the human-divine partnership in ongoing creation.
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