Parshas Ki Sisa begins with G-d commanding Moshe, “Ki sisa es rosh benei Yisrael — When you take a census of the Israelites to determine their numbers, each one shall be counted by giving an atonement offering for his life” (The Living Torah, Shemos 3-:12). The idea that G-d counts the Jewish people is a sublime one, marked in the literal translation of the words ki sisa, which mean, “when you raise.” When G-d counts the Jewish people He elevates them; He proves them worthy of being counted.
Shlomo Hamelech celebrates this idea in Shir Hashirim (7:3), describing the beauty of the Jewish nation in metaphor: “Bitneich areimas chitim, sugah bashoshanim,” literally, “Your belly is a heap of grain, enclosed by roses.”
“Why is Israel analogized to grain?” Asks the Midrash. “Reish Lakish says, Just as this grain is measured, so too all Israel was counted” (Yalkut Shimoni).
The Keli Yakar elaborates. Objects such as straw, which are not special, are not counted, but objects such as grain are counted and measured. The Jews are like grain — every one is counted and measured; every Jew has significance.
Moreover, the Jews are distinguished from the rest of the world not only on an intellectual and moral level. Even on a physical level, where one would think that the Jew and the Gentile are on equal footing, as both have identical physical needs, the Jew is on an elevated level. Shlomo Hamelech underscores the Jews physicality because a Jew distinguishes himself through his material comportment as well. By following the Torah’s mandates, the Jew infuses the physical aspects of his world with holiness.
The need to sanctify one’s material living is a critical one for every married couple. How do they bring this holiness into their home? By following the example of the Tabernacle’s construction.
G-d calls upon Betzalel to construct the utensils for the Tabernacle. The Gemara (Berachos 55a) records that Moshe told Betzalel to build “the Ark, utensils and the Tabernacle,” to which Betzalel responded, “Our teacher Moshe, the custom of the world is that a man [first] builds a house and afterwards brings his possessions into it. Yet you are telling me to build the Ark [first, and then] the utensils and the Tabernacle. Where shall I put the utensils that I build? Perhaps G-d said to you, ‘[First build the] Tabernacle, [then the] Ark and utensils.’”
Moshe acknowledged that Betzalel was correct. First the Tabernacle needed to be built and then its furnishings.
Every married couple sets out to build the perfect jewish home, and the way for them to accomplish this goal is outlined in this parshah.
First, chassan and kallah must see themselves the way the Torah sees them, as worthy members of a holy nation. “Ki sisa es rosh benei Yisrael.” They must show respect and deference to each other as well as to every member of the Jewish people. Then they will fully appreciate the responsibility and honor placed upon them as members of G-d’s chosen nation.
Second, they must actively pursue that responsibility. Their commitment to Torah values can not be limited to the realm of good intentions. Torah can not be restricted to the mind, to the intellect, to a “higher consciousness,” but must also extend to actions in the material world. In that way, your physical and material attributes will also be elevated, “sugah bashoshanim,” enclosed by the sweet scent of the mitzvos that you do. The mundane activities of your everyday lives will ascend to higher, spiritual levels along with your regular observance of the mitzvos.
Third, you must aspire to be like Betzalel, who, as his name signified, lived “betzeil Keil — in the shadow of G-d.” You must build your home to resemble the Tabernacle, to be a mini-sanctuary, a home where service of G-d and observance of His Torah are the first concern. Once you build that structure, you will have room for the “utensils,” the blessings of prosperity that will be yours.
My dear chassan and kallah, may you build a sanctified home with the building blocks of personal prestige, passionate commitment to the Torah, faithful observance of the mitzvos, and the infusion of Torah into every aspect of your life together. By following these steps, your home will be blessed and will radiate light and warmth to all around you. It will be a sanctuary for all to see and for all to be inspired by.