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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Pekudei

These are the accountings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the testimony. (38:21)

A number of expositions address the concept of Mishkan HaEidus, Mishkan of the Testimony. The Malbim, zl, explains that the Mishkan attests to the fact that every area of the Mishkan was constructed with integrity and pure intentions. Every individual involved executed its construction with absolute devotion, without any taint of inappropriateness. When the Shechinah descended upon the Mishkan and filled every area of it with sublime holiness, it attested to the purity of intention and performance of all those involved in its construction. In order for one to merit Siyata diShmaya, Divine Assistance, one must build upon a foundation of holiness and purity.

The Bnei Yissachar cites Horav Mendel zlw M'Rimanov who comments about a strange phenomenon: once they have begun to mature, we often observe the sudden transformation of young children who are sweet and pure. The "chein," grace, that has been so much a part of their essence disappears, only to be replaced by a harshness and meanness that seems to be totally out of character. He explains that this may be attributed to their partaking of maachalos asuros, forbidden foods. If their parents have earned their money through ill-gotten means -- petty theft, cheating, or shady business dealings -- and this money has been used to purchase food for their children; this food is forbidden food! They were raised on food that was derived from improper sources. If the foundation is not pure, the results cannot be much better. Children who are nurtured on food that is spiritually tainted are more prone to spiritual / moral deficiencies.

The Bnei Yissachar substantiates this thesis with an interesting halachah. The Torah tells us that the zefek, crop, of a chicken was to be thrown into the place where the ashes were kept. In other words, this organ of a fowl was not placed on the Mizbayach. Rashi explains that since fowl sustain themselves from whatever food they can obtain, it is not unusual for this food to be derived through stealing, by going into other people's fields and eating. The food ends up in the crop. Thus, it is not offered to Hashem. A chicken is a creature that is surely not commanded in the admonition of "Lo tignov," "Do not steal;" yet, since its physical being is, in a sense, sustained by theft, it no longer has a place before Hashem. This serves as a kal v'chomer, a priori, to humans, in regard to the effect that their moral behavior has upon them.

The monies obtained from Klal Yisrael for the Mishkan were pure, totally removed from any form of inappropriate behavior. This is evident by the Torah's detailing every contribution. The Mishkan Ha'Eidus serves as a testimonial to this fact.

In his commentary on the pasuk, Rashi suggests that the Mishkan attests to the fact that Hashem forgave Klal Yisrael for perpetrating the sin of the Golden Calf. The Mishkan indicates that Hashem's love for His People reverted to the same level which was manifest before the sin.

The Sefas Emes supplements this idea, commenting that the Mishkan constitutes a testimonial that the sin of the Golden Calf never penetrated the penimius, internal essence of Klal Yisrael. The pure neshamah, soul, of Klal Yisrael was not tainted, permitting them to perform teshuvah, repent to Hashem, with a pure heart. Their ability to build a Sanctuary for the Almighty after their involvement in such a tragic sin, indicates that before, when they sinned, the effects of sin had not penetrated their nefesh, spirit. This is consistent with the pasuk in Shir HaShirim 8:7, "Many waters of heathen tribulation cannot extinguish the fire of this love." All of the trials and tribulations to which we have been subjected, all the anti-Semitic persecutions that we have endured, cannot and will not extinguish our true love for the Almighty.

The Sefas Emes adds a compelling statement. This testimony did not end with the Mishkan, but has endured until this very day, attesting to the profound love for the Almighty deep in every Jewish heart. Regardless of the distance that we place between ourselves and Hashem, we have the innate love and ability to return to Him. Consequently, when we encounter a Jew who has become superficially alienated from his Father in Heaven, we should make every effort to reach that concealed inner spark within him. Surely, we may not demonstrate any animus towards him.

These are the accountings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the Testimony. (38:21)

Rashi notes that the word Mishkan is mentioned twice. He explains this as an allusion to the Bais HaMikdash that was twice taken as a "mashkon," collateral, in its two destructions for the sins of Klal Yisrael. The various commentators address the pasuk's redundancy. Horav Eliyahu Schlessinger, Shlita, offers the following approach: The Torah devotes more than half of Sefer Shemos to the construction of the Mishkon, its various appurtenances and Bigdei Kehunah, Priestly vestments. This is incredible in the sense that nowhere do we find the Torah allotting so much space to any single subject. Furthermore, every word in the Torah is eternal. It remains applicable even in contemporary times, regardless of the culture of which we happen to be a part. The instructions regarding the Mishkan are words of Torah. Hence, the laws regarding the Mishkan, its vessels and the Priestly vestments, endure even though the Mishkan is no longer a reality. We must endeavor to understand its application to contemporary life.

The Torah seems to be addressing the concept of two Mishkanos in Jewish life: the Mishkan and the Mishkan Ha'Eidus. The latter is the Mishkan that Betzalel made in accordance with Hashem's command. It contains the Eidus, Testimony/Two Luchos. There is, however, another form of Mishkan - the Jewish home, which should reflect the Mishkan's value and goals. The table in our home should represent the Mizbayach in the Mishkan, surrounded by the Aron Hakodesh and the Menorah. It should always remain holy and pure. The clothing that we wear should reflect the beauty, tzinius - modesty -- and kedushah -holiness -- of the Bigdei Kehunah. In other words, we must act and speak with the holiness that is inherent in the Mishkan. We have two Mishkanos: one in Yerushalayim and one in our home. The Torah emphasizes the need to have these edifices correspond in their goals and manifest values.

Moshe erected the Mishkan, and he fastened its sockets and set its boards and inserted its bars and erected its pillars. He spread the tent over the Mishkan and set the covering of the tent over it. (40:18, 19)

The idea of "Moshe erecting the Mishkan" is a reference to the lower curtains. As Chazal teach us in the Talmud Shabbos 28A, only the Mishkan itself is called Mishkan - the beams are not called Mishkan. Hence, by the time Moshe erected the beams, the lower curtains were already in place. The order of erecting the Mishkan was, thus, as follows: first the lower curtains were spread; and only then were the beams raised; after which, the second covering made of goats' hair was placed.

This is confirmed by Sforno who says that the curtains, the essence of the Mishkan, were held in place -- either by people or miraculously -- until the beams that held them up were prepared. What purpose was served by violating the natural order of construction in which the walls are built before the roof?

The Shem M'Shmuel explains that this is related to the essence and function of the Mishkan in Klal Yisrael. The Mishkan was intended to be the location in which the Shechinah, Divine Presence, would repose. It was here that the Shechinah was most palpable. In order to accomplish this, every aspect of the Mishkan needed to be designed and constructed for this purpose - to be the repository to receive and transmit the Divine Presence. This is analogous to the relationship between the body and soul within each individual. The body is the medium through which the soul exists in this corporeal world. As the body serves as location for the soul, so too, was the Mishkan the Shechinah's vehicle for spreading its influence and inspiration in this world.

Klal Yisrael did not really deserve this unique gift after they committed the tragic sin of the Golden Calf. After the sin of the Golden Calf, they were spiritually bereft of merit, hardly suited for such an incredible manifestation of the Divine. They realized, however, that in order to fulfill their aim in life, they must be vehicles for Hashem, disseminating the message of Torah and spirituality by personal example. They were to be like the Mishkan, vehicles for the Divine. Hashem granted them the Mishkan as a gift, offering them the opportunity to perceive Him even while they were in a state of spiritual deficiency.

This "gift" was symbolized by the idiosyncratic order of the Mishkan's construction. The idea of the lower coverings being spread before the beams were placed for support, conveys the reality of Klal Yisrael's spiritual plateau after the sin of the Golden Calf. The Mishkan was granted to them prior to their being able to support the spiritual level it represented and demanded. Only after the curtains were spread could the beams be placed underneath. Likewise, the spiritual ascendancy provided by the Mishkan could now support the people on the level that they had been granted by Hashem.

In other words, Klal Yisrael was spiritually elevated; they were given a boost as a foreshadowing of the level that they would themselves be capable of supporting later. A similar idea is applied to Klal Yisrael's redemption from Egypt. They were not worthy of liberation, so serious was their spiritual deficiency. Indeed, Chazal note that had they remained in Egypt just a short time longer, they would never have been worthy of redemption. They were immersed into Egyptian culture which was morally depraved; they had assimilated themselves in an attempt to be like the Egyptians. Just a few areas of distinction differentiated the Jew from the Egyptian. Why were they saved? Hashem liberated them because of what they would soon achieve - Kabollas HaTorah, accepting the Torah. While they were not yet worthy, Hashem raised them from their spiritual quagmire and gave them the Torah. He was confident that they would "earn" His trust and ascend to the correct spiritual plateau essential for this unique gift. We must remember that we must merit the trust and confidence that Hashem has in us.

And the cloud covered the Ohel Moed and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan. (40:34)

Klal Yisrael offered many contributions towards the construction of the Mishkan. Indeed, every Jew poured out his heartfelt donation with enthusiasm and alacrity. With the completion of the construction, however, the Mishkan was not totally complete. The technical aspect of the Mishkan's construction was performed, but the matarah, purpose, had not yet been attained. The goal of the edifice was hashroas ha'Shechinah, the Shechinah's repose in the Mishkan among Klal Yisrael. As long as this had not been achieved, the Mishkan's purpose had not yet been realized.

With the work's completion, the Mishkan's purpose was immediately realized as Hashem's glory filled the Mishkan. Sforno notes that while Hashem's glory revealed itself in every part of the Mishkan, it was not apparent outside of the edifice. This concept was endemic only to the Machne Shechinah, the camp in which the Mishkan was situated. Everywhere within the Mishkan one could sense Hashem's glory. Outside the confines of the Mishkan, one saw an impressive edifice, a beautiful piece of architecture, but not the Shechinah. Horav Moshe Reis, Shlita, explains that while the Shechinah was certainly "capable" of greater revelation, it was confined to teach us that if one seeks kedushah, holiness, he must enter inside the makom kadosh, holy place. Only then can one sense and "feel" that the Shechinah reposes among us. This is the essence of ruchnius, spirituality. One must be mishtadel, endeavor, to take the first step, to enter into the holy repository in order to achieve the inspiration. A cursory, superficial glance is not sufficient. One must take off his "shoes" and enter. Only then will he experience the true light of kedushah in all of its glory.

As a consequence of our sins, Hashem has taken two Batei Mikdash from us. The kedushah that existed as a result of their presence is not as apparent. We have been left with an aspect of that former holiness, reflected in our Torah leaders. Their lives and total essence reflect the presence of the Shechinah in Klal Yisrael on a smaller scale. The principles and values that are mentioned in regard to the Mishkan of wood, stone and various metals, are to be found accordingly in relation to these tzaddikim whose every fiber of their body bespeak kavod Shomayim, the glory of Heaven. While outwardly they are paragons of virtue and sanctity, their speech and relationship with people are paradigmatic of one imbued with a sublime nature. Their inner essence, like the Mishkan, is suffused with a kedushah beyond human grasp.

The hashroas ha"Shechinah in the Mishkan was so great that it did not permit the average human being to enter the Mishkan. Even Moshe Rabbeinu, about whom it is stated, "b'chol beisi neeman hu," "In My entire house he is the trusted one," could only enter the Mishkan when the cloud descended upon it, filling it with Hashem's glory. One may question this: How is it that an edifice created and constructed by human beings, under the direction of Moshe, could become so incredibly sacred that Moshe himself could not enter?

The Sefas Emes offers a profound response: He explains that when one acts purely in order to fulfill the will of Hashem -- with no vestige of personal motive or interest -- he can achieve this goal and his creation will be totally sacred. He elevates the edifice to a sanctity corresponding with the will of Hashem.

Obviously, the average person cannot devoid himself of every element of personal interest. Only a truly unique individual can create such a singular edifice as the Mishkan.


1) Who was put in charge of the Leviim, designating to each family the work that was incumbent on it?

2) What did Moshe command Betzalel to make first, the Mishkan or its keilim?

3) What did Hashem command Moshe to do?

4) What did Betzalel do?

5) How many silver Adanim were there?

6) How many Kerashim did the Mishkan have?

7) What were the Bigdei Serad?

8) Where did the Kohen Gadol place his Tefillin Shel Rosh?

9) How many chapters of Tehillim begin with the words Tefillah l'Moshe?


1) Isamar ben Aharon HaKohen.

2) Moshe commanded Betzalel to first make the furnishings and afterwards the Mishkan. 4) Betzalel first made the Mishkan.

5) 100: There were 96 for the Kerashim and 4 for the Paroches.

6) 48.

7) They were garments that were used to cover the holy vessels at the time of departure for their journey.

8) In the space between the Mitznefes and the Tzitz.

9) Eleven.

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