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by Jacob Solomon


They shall make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell amongst them…(25:8).

Rashi points out that the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was a structure to be dedicated to the service of the Almighty (lishma). Elegant structures – (and in later generations, batei kenessiot) were spiritually meaningless unless their purpose was lishma.

The pasuk (verse) says I will dwell amongst them. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch sees this pasuk as the key to understanding the whole purpose of the Mishkan. This was that the Sanctuary was a symbol of the Israelites’ obligation to keep the mitzvot in all parts of their personal lives. For example the Aron (Holy Ark) had to be overlaid in pure gold – both inside and outside (25:11):

Rabbeinu Channanel says that this symbolized the importance of kedusha (sanctification) in all areas of life; in keeping the Mitzvot both publicly and privately. It follows that when the nation collectively carried out the primary responsibility of being the Am Segula, G-d would respond by dwelling amongst them. And the very act of carrying out G-d’s command to build the Mishkan according to His specifications was in itself an act that raised them to greater degrees of kedusha.

In connection with this observation, I am reminded of a certain successful Torah teacher who was very popular, approachable and informal. Nevertheless he insisted on the classroom being neat and tidy before he entered, and that students should rise when he would come in to start the shiur. In addition he always dressed impeccably. He explained that all this was essential to impress on his students – and on himself - that the content of his lessons had the kedusha of Torah study. He could only enter a room that was already prepared to be compatible with kedusha. By standing up, he claimed, the students were not so much showing respect to him personally, as to the kedusha of the Torah which would form the content of the shiur.

This idea perhaps helps to explain the importance of the Melechet Hamishkan (the construction of the Tabernacle). Simply hoping that the Shechina (Divine Presence) will come – and that the Mashiach will arrive in our generation, is not enough. The anecdote above and the whole elaborate preparations of the Mishkan carry the meaning that Mashiach does not come to the people, but the people go to Mashiach. In the generation of the Yetziat Mitzrayim (Exodus) the Shechina remained with the Israelites – dwelt amongst them - through the merits of Kabbalat Hatorah (receiving of the Torah) and the heavy sacrifices of newly acquired wealth for the Melechet Hamishkan. The Talmud (Shabbat 118b) says that the Redemption will come when everyone will make the ‘sacrifice’ of adapting their lifestyles to observe two Shabbatot…

Indeed the Torah (Lev. 26:31) threatens persistent transgressions with the destruction of the Holy Places: kedusha can only live with kedusha – the Shechina will only stay where people conduct themselves in an appropriate way…

The Order of the Parashiot…

According to Rashi (see his comment to 31:18) the sin of the worshipping of the Golden Calf took place before the command to build the Mishkan. Other commentaries – notably the Ramban (35:1), claim that Moses was commanded to build the Mishkan during the forty days he was instructed in the details of the Torah by the Almighty on Mount Sinai. Accordingly the events in this part of the Torah did take place in the order they are presented.

This explanation by the Ramban helps to account for another point. In the Command for the Melechet Hamishkan – as detailed in Parashat Teruma, the order was to first build the Aron, Shulchan (Table), and Menorah (Candelabrum), and afterwards the Mishkan. However when the Mishkan was built, the actual Tabernacle was constructed first, and those three objects which formed its spiritual center came last.

Given the Ramban’s order of the Parashiot, it seems possible to suggest the following reason. Before the Sin of the Golden Calf, the Israelites were on the highest possible madreiga (spiritual level). It made sense that they should immediately be occupied with the first item they were ordered to construct – the Aron and the Keruvim (Cherubim) – which were of such a great kedusha that they were only accessible to the High Priest on Yom Kippur. Spiritually they were a continuation of the holiness experienced when G-d revealed the Torah at Mount Sinai. After the sin of the Golden Calf, they fell many rungs down the spiritual ladder. They therefore re-ascended, step by step. Betzalel, who was responsible for the actual construction, first worked on the structures with less kedusha and by the merits of having completed them, progressed to the holier ones…



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