The following beautiful chiasmus (shout out to my daf yomi!) opens up a fresh way to think about Holiness in the Book of Exodus.
A. 25:1 – 31:11 Mishkan – building material and priestly garments
B. 31:12 – 31:17 Shabbat –
C. 31:18 – 34:35 Sin of the Golden Calf & Repentance
B’. 35:1 – 35:3 Shabbat –
A’. 35:4 – 40:33 Mishkan – implimentation of commandment
The fulcrum of the second half of the Book of Exodus is, quite apparently, the sin of the Golden Calf. This error seems to be have been based on a misunderstanding of holiness in this world. The Holiness that inheres in Shabbat and the Mishkan seems to have lead to a false assumption about the human ability to manufacture opportunies for connection.
Maybe they thought they were building a Mishkan that would be more easily portable. This was simply a different use of gold to build a place that could be the focus of worship. Perhaps not so different from the Mishkan. Where did they go wrong?
When they built this Golden Calf they created a Holiness of Place, or thing, but left out the Holiness of Time – Shabbat! Without Shabbat the structures, institutions, businesses… that we build can become idolatrous. Shabbat reminds us that ultimately we are all focused on building an ‘oasis in time’.
It is my sincere hope and prayer that we are all able to focus on the holiness that is brought into our lives around the Shabbat table.