ve-asu li mikdash ve-shachanti be-tocham
And they will make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them.
As I mentioned in my previous post, this week the Torah introduces the building of the Mishkan. The Ramban explains that the Mishkan is meant as a continuation of the experience of the "Glory" of God "resting" on the Jewish people as was experienced at Har Sinai; as it says, וישכן כבוד ה׳ על הר סיני , va-yishkon k'vod Hashem al Har Sinai.¹ Even the name "Mishkan" - משכן contains the same root, Shachen, to dwell.
The Ramban points out that the Aron was the focal point of the Divine Revelation in the Mishkan, as Hashem told Moshe, "I shall speak with you from atop…the Aron". ²
The Aron had no "function" in the Temple service, as did the Shulchan (showbread table), Mizbayach (altar) and Menora. Its purpose was to house the Luchos (tablets), and later, the Torah that Moshe wrote. Rabbeinu Bachya says that ארון (Aron) is from the root Ohr (light) which represents Torah, as it says, כי נר מצוה ותורה אור ki ner mitzva ve-Torah ohr (for a Mitzva is a candle and Torah, light).³ The Medrash says that just as creation began with va-Yomer Elokim yehi ohr - "and God said, 'let there be light'", the Aron, which represents Torah, is the first of the vessels specified.4
The Medrash then explains why it is that with each of the other vessels it says ועשית (ve-Asita), and you (singular) shall make, but for the Aron it says, ועשו (ve-Asu) - and they shall make. The singular form implies one representative of the collective whole, whereas the plural means le-chol echad v'echad, for each individual. 5 Amar lahem HaKadosh Baruch Hu yavo'u ha-kol ve-ya'asku be-aron she-yizku chulam le-Torah "said the Holy One Blessed be He, let each one come and work in the Aron so that each person may merit a share in the Torah". 6
The Midrash gives the following parable. A king once agreed to marry off his only daughter to a prince from a foreign land. After the wedding, the new husband wanted to return to his home town with his new wife. The king presented a royal dilemma. "This daughter is my only one, and I can't separate from her. On the other hand, she is your wife, so I can't ask you to refrain from taking her with you. So I ask the following favor. Wherever you go, make a small cottage, in which I can dwell with you. 7
So too, Hashem could not bear to part with His Torah. Therefore, He commanded the Jewish People to make a dwelling place where He could reside and stay close to it. Even now, when there is no longer a Mishkan or Beit ha-Mikdash, "when two sit together and words of Torah pass between them, the Divine Presence rests between them". 8
Perhaps today, ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם tells us that we, ourselves, should open our hearts and minds to the words of Torah, so that Hashem's Divine Presence can reside within each one of us.
¹ Shemos (Exodus) 24:16
² Shemos 25:22
³ Mishlei (Proverbs) 6:23
4 Sh'mos Rabah 34:2
5 See Succa 41b or as the Gemara explains explicitly in Menachos 65b where the Torah uses the language of "ve'safarta lecha" and you (singular) should count for yourself for the years of the yovel and "u'sefartem lachem" and you (plural) should cout for yourselves by the days of the omer.
6 Sh'mos Rabah ibid
7 Sh'mos Rabah 33:1 The parable ends: 'asei Li kiton echad v'edor beineichem' (make for Me a small chamber [ie. the Mishkan] so that I may live in your midst) The Sefas Emes, quoting his grandfather (the Chidushei HaRim), points out that the word 'v'edor' (and I will dwell) is related to the word 'Adar' - the very name of this month implies that it is a time when the Shechina dwells among us 'v'edor beineichem' .
8 Avos 3:3