This week’s Torah portion, Terumah, details the various components that went into the Mishkan – the portable Sanctuary erected by the Jews during their journey through the wilderness.
The Sanctuary itself was built of tremendous planks of acacia wood, the dimensions of which were “ten cubits the length of the board, and one-and-a-half cubits the width of each board.”
An obvious question is asked: Where did the Children of Israel find such a huge amount of wood in the middle of the desert?
Rashi, the great Torah commentator, provides us with an answer taken from the Midrash Tanchuma: “Our Forefather Jacob perceived with his spirit of prophecy that the Jewish people would one day build a Sanctuary in the wilderness. He therefore brought cedars with him to Egypt and planted them, commanding his children to carry the trees with them when they later left Egypt.”
This explanation is also in accord with another verse in the Torah which states that the donations of wood for the Sanctuary were made by “those who had acacia wood with them,” implying that the wood belonged to the Children of Israel while they were yet in Egypt.
Indeed, more than 200 years before the Jews were even subjugated; Jacob saw to it that his descendants would have a sufficient reserve of wood to build the Sanctuary.
But why was this so important? Couldn’t they have purchased the wood from Egyptian merchants, or sent emissaries to the nearest forest to obtain the needed materials?
In truth, Jacob’s actions held a deeper meaning than merely supplying his children with wood. Jacob’s intent was to provide the Jewish people with succor and consolation that would enable them to survive the harshness of the exile.
G-d’s promise to redeem them from Egypt was not enough; Jacob wanted his children to be comforted by the sight of the trees and reminded of the Sanctuary they would one day erect.
Additional solace was derived from the fact that Jacob had brought the saplings with him from the Holy Land of Israel, reminding the Jewish people of their origins as well as G-d’s promise to bring them back to their land.
This consolation during the exile is also alluded to in the source for this explanation – Midrash Tanchuma, as “Tanchuma” is word related to the Hebrew word for consolation and comfort – “nechama.”
A similar type of consolation has also been granted to us during our present exile, which, G-d willing, is about to come to an end. The “cedar trees” of our time are the tzadikim (righteous people) who exist in every generation, as it states in Psalms, “A righteous person will flourish like a date palm, like a cedar in the Lebanon he will grow tall.”
These tzadikim, who are entirely above the constraints of exile, prevent the Jewish people from losing hope and awaken their hearts to the Redemption.
In this way, the Jewish people will merit the ultimate comfort and consolation in the literal sense, with the full and complete Redemption with Moshiach NOW!