"Gold, silver and copper..." (Ex. 25:3)

Although gold surpasses silver in value, silver is the metal of choice for use as currency. Spiritually, the rarity and uncommonness of gold alludes to the otherworldly, transcendent element of man - the desire to rise beyond the natural and remain outside the common. Conversely, the availability of silver alludes to the effort to draw otherworldly holiness into the common and mundane. Although gold is the more precious of the two metals, there are certain contexts in Jewish Law in which the availability of silver makes it more valuable than gold. (See Bava Metzia, 44a-b, Rosh ad loc) This preference of silver over gold reflects the fact that it is the "silver" element of our experience that achieves the divine plan.

Silver and gold represent two elements within the Jewish people….

Similarly, silver and gold represent two elements within the Jewish people: Silver represents the perfectly righteous, who funnel divine "light" into the mundane world. Gold represents those who have struggled with darkness and won; their struggle impels them to seek transcendence and escape from the stranglehold of materialism.

Yet, the availability of silver outweighs the value of gold only because silver is itself valuable; although it is within the mundane, it brings holiness to it. Copper, on the other hand, unlike gold, is currency, but, unlike silver, it is not valuable. It therefore represents someone who lives within the mundane but brings no light into it. The Hebrew word for "copper", "nechoshet", comes from the word for "snake", "nachash". Copper is "snake-metal", a substance that recalls the stubborn impudence of the Primordial Snake's denial of G‑d.

To merit the Divine Presence they must unite with those on the level of copper….

Yet, the Torah requires that all three metals be a part of the Tabernacle. This is a lesson both to those who perceive themselves as gold and silver and those who think of themselves as copper. The gold and silver Jews must realize that to merit the Divine Presence they must unite with those on the level of copper. And the copper Jews, who are yet imperfect, must know that copper, too, was a part of the Tabernacle, and that they are not absolved of doing their part in bring the Divine Presence down to earth.

[Adapted by Moshe Yakov Wisnefsky from Likutei Sichot, vol. 6, pp. 157-60; Copyright 2001 chabad of california / www.lachumash.org]