My father’s love for building and tinkering instilled in me a deep love for hardware stores. To me, the rows of gidgets, gadgets, and who’s-em-a-what’s-its represent endless possibilities. All I need to do is fill up my shopping cart, add some creativity, and the world is mine to create. More than anything though, I especially loved when we bought paint.
As is the nature of building projects in the physical world, all the limitless colors of paint start as white, “unformed and void” (Breishit 1:2). To the white, we add precise drops of red, blue, yellow, and black. After a run through the shaker machine, a can of ‘nothing with a few drops of something’ is transformed into the most beautiful colors.
We open this week’s double parsha with our beloved, albeit troubled, nation finally embarking on their grand building project. Much like mixing paints or God’s creation of the physical world, the mishkan is a product of additive construction. The fine twisted linen and crimson yarn are woven together to create cloths, curtains, and coverings. Acacia wood is overlaid with gold or copper to create staves, alters, and a table. Gold, silver, and copper are cast to create rings, hooks, and sockets.
Yet there are two things not created by adding, but formed in an altogether different fashion – “He made them of hammered work” (Shemot 37:7).
The menorah and the ark cover were not melted down and poured. They were not woven, overlaid, or cast. Rather, Bezalel took two singular pieces of gold and morphed them into stunning structures, “its cups, calyxes, and petals were of one piece with it” (Shemot 37:17), “he made the chrubim of one piece with the cover” (Shemot 37:8).
This form of building follows another method of creation, that of additive color – the way we create light. Exactly contrasting the physical color scheme, in light, black is the absence of color and white the totality of its summation. Unlike paint which starts with white and moves towards darkness*, luminescence begins with “darkness over the surface of the deep” (Breshit 1:2) and moves towards white.
It makes perfect sense then that the menorah – the source of illuminated wisdom, and the ark cover – the space from which God addresses the people, are created through the paradigm of light. They are each made of one piece, because there is only One true source of light. The darkness in our lives is merely created by the refraction of God’s pure white light through our muddled world.
Therefore, if we want to build a world in which God dwells, if we want to once again experience the white – we must strive for unity, by combining all our lights.