In Parashat P’kudei, God gives very explicit instructions for how the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, is to be set up, including the frame, the metalwork, the jewels and the tapestries. It seems that not a detail is omitted. The entire portion, from Chapter 38:21 to Chapter 40:38, which is the end of the second book of the Torah, is filled with explanations for how the Israelites are to proceed with the setting up of the Mishkan. In some ways this very structured environment give the impression that God is limiting any creativity and freedom for the people in the building process at all. Does it?
Ellen and Peter Allard, in a short essay for ReformJudaism.org, wrote something I’d like to share with you, and that might help us to understand why structures and strong frameworks are from time to time a helpful necessity:
Like the Israelites, young children need both direction and structure that will give them the freedom to create. By establishing and maintaining structure, adults provide safety and comfort for young children. It is this structure that allows a child to predict how his or her day will look. It is this predictability that provides feelings of safety and confidence. It is within the arms of safety that a young child can begin to explore the world, slowly moving and expanding in ever greater circles, just like the Israelites. As an infant people, the Israelites need the structure provided by these detailed instructions to create a beautiful and meaningful Mishkan.
Parents are given the first opportunity and the primary responsibility for providing structure in their children’s lives. Whether it is with regular feedings or the appearance of a pair of nurturing arms to calm a fussy baby, children begin to know their world and in turn feel safe. When they go to school, they learn to operate within the confines of the school’s schedule. Like the Israelites in Parashat P’kudei, our children learn to follow rules. It is within the structure of these rules and predictable schedules that children come to trust their environment.
Parents and early childhood teachers have the important responsibility of shepherding young children so that they may reach their full potential. By establishing a firm foundation, with structure and boundaries, as well as providing an environment rich in creative exploration, we are giving our children a firm foundation that will encourage and enable them to be healthy, vibrant and happy youngsters.
Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Adrian M Schell
Torah Reading for Shabbat P’kudei
Exodus 38:21-40:38 (Reading Ex 40:12-38; Plaut p.633; Hertz p.389);
Haftarah: I Kings 7:51-8:21 (Plaut p.637; Hertz p.392)
Torah Study with Rabbi Schell every Shabbat at 08h45
Podcast of Rabbi Schell’s weekly Sermons Tuesdays on Radio Today (10h30) or: http://goo.gl/LsHQrY.