The second half of Parashat Tzav describes the seven-day miluim period, during which Aharon and his sons were formally consecrated as kohanim. God commanded Moshe to assemble the entire nation to the area by the entrance to the newly-constructed Mishkan to witness the events (8:3). Rashi, citing the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 10:9), comments, “This is one of the places where the small contained the many.” The Midrash here points to the miracle that was needed for the entire nation to come together in the small area in front of the Mishkan, which was too small to contain them.
The Chatam Sofer suggests an explanation for the significance of this unusual miracle. He writes that God sought to teach Benei Yisrael the importance of the quality of “histapkut” – feeling content with even a small amount which one receives. As God was now bringing His presence to reside among the people, He wanted them to experience the “miracle” of “histapkut,” to recognize that we can, contrary to what we might at first think, manage with whatever small portion we are given. As Benei Yisrael crowded together by the entrance of the Mishkan, it appeared as though there would not be enough space for them all – but in the end, there was. Similarly, we often feel that we are unable to survive with anything less than the comfortable lifestyle we desire. The miracle at the entrance of the Mishkan shows us that we can, in fact, manage with even a small “space,” even with few possessions and without comforts and luxuries.
This lesson was conveyed now, when the divine presence took residence among Benei Yisrael, perhaps to teach that in order to “make room” for God, for sanctity, we need to be prepared to compromise, to some degree, our standards of material comfort. If we are unable to accept limits on our physical “space,” on luxury and enjoyment, then we will always be too preoccupied with expanding our “space” to devote time and attention to the Shekhina. Imbuing our lives with sanctity requires that we develop the quality of “histapkut,” and accustom ourselves to feeling satisfied and content even with modest material standards.