Last week's Torah reading (Mishpatim) explained how the Israelites entered into covenant with the LORD at Mount Sinai. The terms of the covenant were written down in Sefer HaBrit ("the Book of the Covenant"), which contained a variety of laws to specifically govern the Jewish people in the Promised Land. When the people agreed to obey the terms of the covenant, Moses took sacrificial blood and threw it on them saying, "Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Heb. 9:18). Moses then re-ascended the mount to receive the tablets of stone inscribed with the Ten Commandments and to learn additional Torah from the LORD.
In this week's reading, God asked for help "from every man whose heart moved him" to provide materials for making a portable sanctuary called the Mishkan (i.e., Tabernacle), a tent-like structure that would symbolize God's Presence among the Israelites. Gold, silver, brass, red and purple yarns, fine linens, oils, spices, precious stones, etc., all were needed. God said to Moses, "Let them make me a sanctuary (mikdash) so that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the Tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it."
God then showed Moses the pattern according to which the Tabernacle and its contents were to be made. First an ark of acacia wood was to be overlaid with pure gold inside and out. The ark was to be fitted with gold rings and gold covered poles to make it portable. The two tablets of the law were to be stored inside the ark. Two cherubim (angel-like figures) were to placed facing each other over a cover of the ark called the kapporet (i.e., "Mercy Seat"). The ark was to be housed within an inner chamber of the tent called the Holy of Holies. Adjacent to the Holy of Holies was a second chamber called the Holy Place. This chamber would contain a table overlaid with pure gold that held twelve loaves of bread along with a golden, seven-branched menorah. The Holy of Holies was separated from the Holy Place by an ornamental veil called the parochet.
The LORD then described the pattern of the tent along with its exact dimensions. The tent was designed to be portable, with a wooden frame covered by richly colored fabric and the hide of rams and goats. The outer court was to include an altar with horns of copper at each corner. The portion ends with a description of the outer court, which was to be entirely enclosed by an ornamental fence made with fine linen on silver poles with hooks of silver and sockets of brass.