In the beginning of Parashat Teruma, God lists in detail the materials that Benei Yisrael needed to donate for the construction of the Mishkan, its furnishings, and the garments of the kohanim. The Midrash Tanchuma (7) comments that several of these materials allude to foreign nations that have oppressed Am Yisrael over the course of our history. Gold represents Babylonia; silver symbolizes Persia; copper corresponds to Greece; and the dyed ram skins allude to Edom. The Midrash cites verses that appear to draw associations between each of these nations and its respective corresponding material. The Midrash explains: “The Almighty said: Even though you see the four empires priding themselves and asserting themselves over you, I will produce salvation for you from amidst the subjugation.” As the Midrash proceeds to explain, the Torah lists after the aforementioned materials the oil needed for kindling the menorah, and this represents the light of salvation that we will experience with the arrival of Mashiach. This list, then, symbolizes the sequence of enemy nations that oppress us, and assures us that we will ultimately see the end of our oppression with the advent of the Messianic Era.
What connection might there be between this message of hope and the construction of the Mishkan? Why would the Midrash introduce God’s reassurance of our ultimate redemption specifically in this context?
The answer, perhaps, lies in the fact that the Midrash here speaks of the enemy nations who “pride themselves” (“mitga’ot”). We might suggest that the Midrash refers not to the fierce oppression that Am Yisrael has suffered at the hands of enemy nations, but rather to their taunting us over our “Mishkan,” our religious beliefs and practices. Our enemies have so often arrogantly ridiculed us for our traditions and our faith, and attempted to make us feel inferior because of our religious lifestyle. As we are constantly called upon to “donate” to the “Mishkan,” to make great sacrifices for the sake of Torah study and mitzva observance, we can easily be discouraged by the sneers of our adversaries, who condescendingly assert their moral and intellectual superiority over us, condemning and mocking our customs. The Midrash thus reassures us that despite the antagonism that we might have to at times endure, our sacrifices for Torah and mitzvot are valuable and precious, and the day will yet come when the light of our redemption will shine and make it clear to the world that God indeed resides among His beloved nation.