Parsha Perspectives

by RABBI BINYOMIN ADLER

ותכל כל עבדת משכן אהל מועד ויעשו בני ישראל ככל אשר צוה ה’ את משה כן עשו

“All the work of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was completed, and the Children of Israel had done everything that G-d commanded Moses, so did they do.” (Shemot 39:32)

In the Torah portions of Vayakhel and Pekudei the Torah repeats the entire process mentioned earlier in Parshat Terumah and Tetzaveh, detailing the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, and the fashioning of the vestments of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. Surprisingly enough, the Midrash and the commentators do not address why it was necessary for the Torah to expend numerous verses in what appears at first glance to be unnecessary repetition. What could be the reason for this redundancy?

In his introduction to the Book of Shemot, Nachmanides explains that prior to the construction of the Tabernacle, there was a void among the Jewish people.  G-d’s Divine presence, which existed to such a high degree during the time of the Patriarchs, was no longer present.  A primary goal of building the Tabernacle, he explains, was to restore this lofty level that had existed during the time of the Patriarchs.  The Patriarchs, through selfless devotion to G-d and uncompromising beliefs, merited to have the Divine Presence resting on their tents. The Torah therefore repeats many of the details of the Tabernacle’s construction to reinforce the idea that the Tabernacle was meant to be exact to the last detail – that there’s no such thing as, “it’s just a detail.”

Rabbi Yitzchok Levi Horowitz (otherwise known as the The Bostoner Rebbe), of blessed memory, recalled an incident with Reb Mendel, a chassid from Jerusalem, who came to America and worked as a ritual slaughterer in New York. His job was particularly hard during the freezing winters, as the slaughterhouse where he worked was open and unheated. However, the slaughterhouse had a small cubicle where one or two people could sit and warm themselves by a small stove. The slaughterers would go out to work, but they would hurry back as soon as they could to avoid frostbite.

One cold winter evening, while he was waiting in the cubicle for the truck to come in, Reb Mendel dozed off. When it finally arrived, the air was filled with the wake-up call for the slaughterer. Reb Mendel jumped up and ran to his place. The boss and six or seven workers were already there and ready to start.

Reb Mendel quickly recited the blessing and began to slaughter the chickens, one… two… three. He then checked his knife to make sure that it was still perfectly sharp and free from nicks. As he was getting ready for the next batch of chickens, he happened to run his hand across his head and was stunned to discover that he was not wearing a yarmulke!

Apparently, while he was dozing in the cubicle, his yarmulke had fallen off his head. “Oh no!” he thought to himself. “What did I do? I made a blessing and slaughtered without a yarmulke, and I didn’t even know it.”

The hallmark of a professional slaughterer is that he has the requisite sensitivity and focus that allow him to detect even the slightest jerk in the chicken’s neck during the slaughtering process. One who does not wear a yarmulke while slaughtering has not invalidated the act of slaughtering. Nonetheless, the lack of proper sensitivity could render the chicken not kosher.

Reb Mendel said to himself, “If I couldn’t feel whether or not I was wearing a yarmulke, how could I tell if I had slaughtered the chickens properly?”

A lesser man may have hesitated, but Reb Mendel was a chassid through and through. He walked straight back to the cubicle, laid down his knife, and told his startled boss that he was resigning from his position. When his boss questioned him regarding his plan for earning a livelihood, Reb Mendel responded that he would find a different way to earn a living. Reb Mendel ultimately found a job which paid him handsomely.

The construction of the Tabernacle was a microcosm for the life of a devout Jew. Uncompromising attention to the little details is what sets the standard for true devotion and is what allows the Divine Presence to rest on our homes.

by RABBI LEIBY BURNHAM

ותכל כל עבדת משכן… ויעשו בני ישראל ככל אשר צוה ה’ את משה

“All the work of the Tabernacle was completed and the Children of Israel had done everything that G-d commanded Moses.”
(Shemot 39:32)

The portions of Terumah, Tetzaveh, Ki Tisa, Vayakhel, and Pekudei focus almost exclusively on the Tabernacle, its vessels, and the vestments of the High Priest (Kohen Gadol). Over the course of these portions, the Torah repeats the details of the Tabernacle twice, once when it was commanded and once when it was actually completed.

However, more than simply repeating the details, Pekudei goes to great lengths to describe exactly how the Jewish people faithfully implemented every element of the Tabernacle’s design. A full accounting is given of the exact amounts of gold, silver, and copper donated by the nation, down to the last shekel. Perhaps most noticeably, the Torah uses the phrase “as G-d commanded Moses” no fewer than 18 times when describing the actions of the Jewish people – and Moses – in completing the Tabernacle. (Shemot 38:22 – 40:32)

Normally, the Torah expresses itself as briefly as possible. As such, the Torah could have simply recounted G-d’s commandment to build the Tabernacle and then state that this was done. Why does the Torah depart so radically from its usual manner of expression with regard to the Tabernacle?

The first step in answering this question is to address the purpose behind the construction of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was the place where G-d “dwelled” with the Jewish people, and where His presence was felt in a tangible way. In essence, it was the “home” G-d built with the Jewish people. Notice, for example, that the primary elements of the Tabernacle included a Table, Bread, and a Lamp (Menorah), the same items that form the core of any home.

However, as anyone can attest, a home is much more than a “refueling station.” It is a vehicle that allows a relationship to flourish. More than anything else, the Tabernacle represented the loving relationship that existed between G-d and the Jewish people. Therefore, the Torah’s extensive focus on the details of the Tabernacle – and how the Jewish people fulfilled those details – was an expression of that love.

However, this raises a fundamental question of its own: Since G-d is omniscient, He certainly knows whether or not a person is sincere in his relationship with G-d. Why, then, is it not enough for a person simply to “love G-d,” and not get involved in what appears to be so many technicalities and details?

Rabbi Yosef Leib Nendik (pre-World War II Europe) explains that every action a person does, leaves an impression on himself, his surroundings, and in the spiritual realms. By building the Tabernacle exactly “as G-d commanded Moses,” the Jewish people were not simply following instructions. Instead, they understood that fulfilling G-d’s will was the means by which they could actively create a relationship with Him.

Rabbi Meir Rubman (author of the Zichron Meir commentary), in a slightly different vein, notes that the Tabernacle was intended to serve as a suitable place for G-d’s presence to dwell in this world. Therefore, “almost” could not be enough.  In order for this relationship to take hold, the Jewish people had to exert themselves to complete their tasks “as G-d commanded Moses.” In short, when it comes to our relationship with G-d, details matter.

The following parable illustrates this concept.  There was once a king who commissioned a craftsman to build him a magnificent palace. The palace was to include the most elegant and luxurious furnishings available in the kingdom. In his great love and admiration for the king, the craftsman set about his task with great diligence. He went so far as to honor the king by inscribing his name on every item he constructed for the palace. When the palace was completed and the king saw his name on everything he touched, he felt such appreciation that he allowed the craftsman to live with him in the palace.

The Tabernacle, and the Temple that followed it, were models not only for our relationship with G-d but also for our relationships with other people.  The more attention we pay to the details, the greater bond we create. This is true between husbands and wives, parents and children, teachers and students – all of our relationships can be strengthened simply by getting the details right. Doing so creates an atmosphere of holiness and inspiration to our lives.

by OZER ALPORT

וַיבא את הארן אל המשכן וישם את פרכת המסך ויסך על ארון העדות כאשר צוה ה’ את משה

“And he brought the Ark into the Tabernacle and emplaced the Partition sheltering the Ark of Testimony, as G-d had commanded Moses.” (Shemot 40:21)

The Baal HaTurim (1270-1343) in his commentary on this verse notes that the Torah emphasizes that every single aspect of the construction and assembly of the Mishkan was done precisely as G-d had commanded Moses.  In fact, the phrase “as G-d had commanded Moses” is used 18 times in our parsha. As there are no coincidences in Torah, he suggests that this number alludes to the 18 blessings recited thrice-daily in the Amidah.

I once heard a beautiful understanding of the explanation of the Baal HaTurim.  G-d told Moses (Shemot 31:1-5) that Betzalel should be in charge of the building of the Mishkan and its vessels, for He had imbued him with both Divine wisdom and expert skills of artistry and craftsmanship. We are accustomed to viewing artists as those who are free-thinking and creative, valuing self-expression over adherence to strict rules and guidelines.  As many of the requirements for the Mishkan weren’t absolute, such that even numerous deviations wouldn’t invalidate it, one might have expected Betzalel, with his “artistic spirit,” to improvise and attempt to “improve” upon G-d’s blueprint. Therefore, the Torah stresses that he followed every instruction to the last detail.

Similarly, many people today complain that they feel constrained by the standard text of our daily prayers, established almost 2000 years ago. As our daily needs change, they feel, so too should our expression of them. However, based on the Baal HaTurim’s comparison of the daily prayers to the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels, we may suggest that on a deeper level, he is hinting to us that we also need not feel stifled by the repeated expression of our needs and entreaties in the exact same phrases.

Just as Betzalel followed G-d’s precise guidelines for the creation of the Mishkan and still found room for creative expression by doing so with his own unique intentions and insights, so too our Rabbis established the standard wording of the prayers with Divine Inspiration, articulating within them every sentiment we may wish to express.  Many times, in the middle of a difficult situation, we begin the standard prayers with a heavy heart, only to find a new interpretation of the words which we have recited thousands of times jump out at us, perfectly fit to the sentiments we wish to express.

I once heard a beautiful story which perfectly illustrates this point. A close student of Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky (1886-1976) once related that an acquaintance of his had recently undergone a difficult kidney transplant.  Rabbi Abramsky sighed, feeling the other’s pain, and then remarked, “I pray every day that I not be forced to undergo such a procedure.”  His surprised student questioned why he made a special point of praying for this daily. Rav Abramsky responded that this request is included in the standard wording of the Grace after Meals, in which we request that we not come to need מתנת בשר ודם – gifts of flesh and blood (e.g. transplants).

The student challenged this explanation, as the simple understanding of the words is that we shouldn’t need monetary gifts from other humans (“flesh and blood”), to which Rabbi Abramsky smiled and sagaciously explained that the Rabbis incorporated every need we may have within the text of the standard prayers, and any place we may find to “read in” a special request we may have is also included in the original intention of that prayer, if we will only open our eyes to see it and “express” ourselves there accordingly!

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Table Talk

For Discussion Around the Shabbat Table

Rashi writes (Shemot 38:21) that the dwelling of the Divine Presence in the Tabernacle testified to the fact that G-d had forgiven the sin of the Golden Calf. Rashi earlier (Shemot 32:20) writes that those who sinned with the calf were killed or died by supernatural means. As those who remained alive hadn’t taken part in the sin, what need did they have for forgiveness? (Sifsei Chochomim)

Why throughout Parshat Pekudei does the Torah repeatedly emphasize that each of the garments of the Kohanim (Jewish Priests) was made “just as G-d had commanded Moses,” yet no such mention is made in Parshat Vayakhel regarding the construction of the vessels for the Tabernacle? (Meshech Chochmah by Rabbi Meir Simcha of Devinsk)

With the completion of all of the elements of the Tabernacle, G-d left the task of actually erecting it to Moses. However, the sheer size and weight of the planks made it impossible to accomplish this task. In response to Moses’ doubts, G-d told him, “You start the work and you will see that it will erect itself.” In the end, this is exactly what occurred. (Rashi on Shemot 39:33; and verse 40:18)
• Since it was impossible for Moses to erect the Tabernacle by himself, why would G-d give him a task that was clearly beyond his capacity in the first place? What value could there be in having him “go through the motions?”
• Why would G-d choose to have the Tabernacle erected through this subtle miracle instead of through an open miracle?

Q: In assembling the Tabernacle, the Torah relates (Shemot 40:20) that Moses placed the “testimony” into the Ark. Rashi explains (Shemot 25:16) that this is a reference to the Torah and the Tablets which bear witness to the fact that G-d commanded us regarding the mitzvot which are contained therein. What was the value of having a Torah scroll placed in the Ark in the Holy of Holies, a place where it would never be used or even seen as nobody but the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) on Yom Kippur was allowed to enter there?
A: The Medrash explains (Devarim Rabbah 9:9) that the public awareness that there was a 100% authentic Torah scroll written by Moses himself hidden deep in the inner recesses of the Temple acted as a powerful deterrent to any would-be forger. Anybody who entertained the possibility of denying some of the mitzvot and supporting his claims by writing an altered Torah scroll which omits those mitzvot, would refrain due to the awareness that if he did so, Moses’ Torah might be brought out and compared to his; exposing his malicious intent. (Rabbi Ozer Alport)

Q: The book of Shemot concludes by teaching (Shemot 40:38) that the Tabernacle was covered by G-d’s cloud during the day and by fire at night throughout the travels of the Jews in the wilderness. In his commentary on this verse, Rashi curiously adds that even the times of their encampments are also included in the reference to “their journeys.” What lesson is Rashi teaching us?

A: Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch suggests that Rashi is symbolically teaching us that there are no interruptions in a person’s service of G-d. Even at the times when one is forced to take a break, the rest doesn’t constitute a goal unto itself but rather a means of renewing one’s energy in order to continue with the next journey. (Rabbi Ozer Alport)

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Parsha Tidbits

Jumping Points for Discussion and Further Study

by RABBI ELAZAR MEISELS

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

“These are the accounts of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the Mishkan of Testimony, that were drawn up by Moses’ order; for the work of the Levites under the direction of Itamar, son of Aharon the Kohein.” Shemot 38:21
“Is there really a Jerusalem in the Heavens [that corresponds to the earthly city of Jerusalem and its Temple]? Indeed there is! As it is written…” — Talmud, Tractate Taanit 5a

The Mishkan, the Mishkan — the dual use of the term Mishkan in this verse is to symbolize the existence of the two Mishkans; one in heaven and one on earth. The word “Mishkan” derives from the word, “moshech” which means, “to draw from,” and indicates that the Mishkan below drew its strength and sanctity from the Mishkan on high. — Rabbeinu Bachya
Although our corporeal and limited minds cannot comprehend the existence of a heavenly Mishkan, our sages assure us that such a “place” exists, and that it served as the spiritual component for, and provided spiritual sustenance for G-d’s earthly abode. Additionally, the Talmud teaches that although His earthly abode no longer stands, the heavenly abode is still very much in existence and provides an assurance for a future rebuilding of the Temple. It is only here on earth that our sins affected our relationship with the Almighty, causing Him to withdraw from us. In the spiritual realms however, the relationship is very much alive, and awaits only our renewed interest in reviving the relationship to its former levels, before inspiring the rebuilding of the Third Temple, speedily in our time!
The Mishkan, the Mishkan — the word “Mishkan” is mentioned twice in the verse. This is an allusion to the Beit Hamikdash which was twice taken as “collateral” [symbolized by the word “Mishkan” which also means “collateral”] by being destroyed due to the iniquities of the Jewish people. — Medrash Tanchumah 5, Rashi, Daas Zekeinim
The destruction of the two Batei Mikdash is starkly alluded to in the words, “HaMishkan” and “Mishkan HaEidut.”

Mishkan = 410 — the number of years that the first Bait HaMikdash was in existence until its destruction
HaMishkan = 415+5 [the number of letters in the word] = 420 — the number of years that the second Bait HaMikdash was in existence until its destruction.
HaEidut [lacking a Vov in this verse] = 480 — the number of years from the Exodus until King Solomon built the Bait HaMikdash.
All of these events were foreseen by Moses well in advance of their occurrence and hinted to in this verse. – Rabbeinu Bachya
It is important to note that even at the height of their excitement over the construction of the Mishkan, the leaders were well aware of its limited lifespan. They also foresaw that many years would pass before the construction of the first Bait HaMikdash (Holy Temple), which would be destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again. The message contained with this is that although the length of the exile is a difficult and bitter pill to swallow, it is not a cause for concern about the steadfastness of our relationship with G-d, since it is all part of a plan that was foretold well in advance. Our sins may have temporarily sidetracked the relationship, but they never doomed it or gave Him cause to reject us in favor of some other religion.

SCOFFERS AND MOCKERS

“These are the accounts of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the Mishkan of Testimony, that were drawn up by Moses’ order; for the work of the Levites under the direction of Itamar, son of Aharon the Kohein” Shemot 38:21
The accounts of the Mishkan…drawn up by Moses’ order – Why did Moses find it necessary to offer this accounting? Didn’t the Almighty Himself make it clear that He trusted him implicitly by saying, “Not so is My servant Moses; in My entire house he is the trusted one”? (Bamidbar 12:8) Moses overheard the scoffers speaking about him and alleging that he lived the good life and benefited personally from the communal treasury. Realizing that he was the object of their suspicion, Moses decided to lay forth an open reckoning of where and how every penny was spent to allay any suspicions of pilfering. – Midrash Rabbah 11:6
Rabbi Yosef Zundel Salant in Be’er Yosef points to this Medrash as proof of the destructive power of “Leitzonut” (ridicule and mockery). If a person as great and selfless as Moses, who opted to forgo the great wealth of Egypt in order to locate Joseph’s bones, could be accused of pilfering from the communal treasury, this is only because ridicule has the power to make the unbelievable sound all too believable. It was this nefarious method that the infamous Korach employed as well, when he accused Moses of usurping all the power for himself and his family. This was the same Moses about whom the Torah testified, “And the man Moses was exceedingly humble, more so than any person on the face of the earth.” (Bamidbar 12:3) Incredibly, Korach found many willing believers for his defamatory allegations. For such is the power of ridicule that it assaults the logic in such a way as to cast suspicion upon a perfectly innocent and altruistic person and convince others that he is acting with ulterior motives.

ACCOUNTING 101

“The amount of gold donated as a wave offering was 29 talents and 730 shekels…The silver census money collected from the community came out to 100 talents and 1775 shekels…The 100 talents were used to cast the bases for the sanctuary and the cloth partition…The 1775 shekels were used for the hooks, caps and inlaid hoops for the pillars were made..” Shemot 38:24-28

The 1775 shekels – Why does it refer to these shekels in the definitive form? When Moses was giving an accounting for the gold donated by the community, he found himself unable to recall how the 1,775 shekels had been used. This caused him great anguish, as he feared that the people would grow suspicious of his handling of the communal funds. A heavenly voice then emerged and declared, “The 1775 shekels were used for the hooks, caps and inlaid hoops for the pillars were made etc.” This is the reason it is spoken of in the definitive form. – Midrash Rabbah

R’ Meir Shapiro zt”l was wont to remark in regard to this Midrash that it is amazing to comprehend how human beings act under different situations. When creating the Golden Calf, the people donated immense amounts of gold and received only a miniature calf in return. Yet, no one thought to demand an accounting of how the funds were used. Yet when it came to building a holy sanctuary, where numerous rich and impressive objects were fashioned, everything had to be accounted for and only a heavenly voice could silence the rumor mongers among them. Such is human nature that when money is donated for a holy cause, every penny had better be accounted for, yet when spent on frivolous causes, huge sums can be frittered away without thought given to the bottom line.

STONED TO LIFE

“He placed them on the shoulder straps of the Ephod as remembrance stones for the Children of Israel, as G-d had commanded Moses.” Shemot 39:7

Remembrance stones – What will these stones remind the Children of Israel about? They’ll remember that their names were inscribed on the holy stones of the Ephod and this will deter them from behaving in a sinful manner. – Meshech Chochmah

Meshech Chochmah adds that we see a vivid example of this in the incident of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar. Our sages tell us that Joseph entered the house on that fateful day fully intending to sin with her. His father’s visage appeared to him in the window and admonished him, “One day in the future, your name will be inscribed along with your brothers on the Ephod. Do you really wish to forfeit that privilege by sinning with this woman?” This realization shook Joseph to the core and empowered him to reject her advances. A Jew must always remember his hallowed origins and what it means to be a Jew. Otherwise, he’ll be powerless to withstand the numerous temptations that life throws in his path.

CLEARLY CLOUDLY

“For the cloud of G-d was upon the Mishkan by day, and fire would be on it by night, before the eyes of the entire House of Israel, throughout their travels.” Shemot 40:38

Before The… Entire House of Israel – Although the Clouds of Glory accompanied the nation upon their departure from Egypt, it only remained with them until they reached the Sea of Reeds, and was only visible to the prophets among them. It was only after Moses requested [Shemot 33:17] that G-d elevate the entire nation to a level where His presence would be visible to all, that G-d granted his request and the Clouds appeared before “the entire House of Israel.” It is this stunningly crystal clear degree of Divine perception whose return we eagerly anticipate in the Messianic Era. — Gaon of Vilna (Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, (1720-1797)

In his introduction to the Book of Shemot, Ramban writes that this Book is the story of the first national exile and redemption of the Jewish people. This cycle could not be considered complete until they returned to the exalted level of their forefathers upon whom the presence of G-d rested constantly on their tents. It was not until the construction of the Mishkan that this goal was realized as evidenced in this verse. Therefore, it is a fitting conclusion to this Book.

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Hey, I Never Knew That

Sorry, no “Hey I Never Knew That” this week, but check next week’s parsha for more interesting thoughts.

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Word of the Week

Sorry, no “Word of the Week” this week, but check next week’s parsha for more interesting thoughts.

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Dear Rabbi

When the Jewish people finished building the Tabernacle, they brought it to Moses. The Torah states, “And Moses blessed them” (Shemot 39:43). Rashi says that Moses blessed them with a prayer that the Divine Presence would reside in the work of their hands, and he quotes Psalm 90, which begins, “May the pleasantness of G-d be upon us,” as the exact phrase that Moses used. Later authorities cite this as the source for the custom to recite Psalm 90 after the evening service at the end of Shabbat (Avudraham, Seder Motzei Shabbat; Raaviah, Tractate Shabbat 378). Before we begin the work week, we ask G-d that His Divine Presence, His pleasantness, reside in the work of our hands, as the Divine Presence resided in the Tabernacle.

 

GREAT INTENTS

by RABBI ELAZAR MEISELS

 

Dear Rabbi Meisels,

Here’s a good one for you. My partner Izzy, and I, were studying the weekly Torah portion and we learned all about the Tabernacle and the holy vessels it contained and I was struck by a thought. The Torah says that there was a Cloud of Glory which hovered above the Tabernacle constantly, the Table had bread that rested on it for an entire week, yet it remained fresh throughout and was immensely satisfying and nourishing, and the Menorah had a light that remained lit constantly, as well. I told Izzy that this is reminiscent of what our sages told us about the tents of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs, which had a candle lit constantly, their dough was blessed, and a cloud drifted over them continuously. He thought that this idea might have merit and he encouraged me to write to you and see what you think about it. Do you agree? Is there something to this connection?

Hopin’ to hear from ya,
Allan in ‘Bama
“You can call me Al”

Dear Al,

Izzy was right. Your question has great merit, and I’m grateful to you for sending it my way. I must admit that I haven’t yet been able to develop it as completely as I’d like, but in the interest of responding to you in a timely fashion, I’ll share with you some thoughts that come to mind.

The Mishkan [aka Tabernacle] was designed to be a repository for the Divine Presence. Every inch of this unique edifice was built with that purpose in mind, and as a product of such pure motives it was practically guaranteed to live up to expectations. According to many commentators, its construction was a remorse-filled response to the sin of the Golden Calf and an expression of our desire that G-d dwell among us once again.

The first place in the Torah that we find this idea of a dwelling place on earth for the Shechinah [Divine Presence] is, as you mentioned, regarding the tents of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. The verse [Bereishit 24:67] says, “And Isaac brought her [Rebecca] to the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebecca and she was for him a wife, and he loved her, and Isaac was comforted over the loss of his mother.” Rashi comments in the name of our sages, that so long as Sarah was alive, a candle remained lit in her tent from Erev Shabbat [Friday afternoon] until the following Erev Shabbat, the dough was exceedingly blessed, and the Divine Presence hovered over her tent continuously. Once she passed on, these unique features disappeared, and only reappeared when Rebecca entered the tent.

The next time we find mention of the Divine Presence on earth in permanent form [as opposed to the Revelation on Sinai which was temporary], is regarding the Mishkan [Tabernacle] and there too, the same unique features were present among others. Clearly, this similarity is too great to ignore, or to dismiss as random.

What makes this so compelling is that the Torah tells us that the Mishkan was built using a special kind of wood known as “Atzei Shittim” [acacia wood]. The well-known commentator Rashi [Shemot 25:5] points out that acacia wood was not readily available in the desert. How then, did the Jewish people obtain this wood? He explains that the Patriarch Jacob, on his way down to Egypt, stopped off in Be’er Sheva for the night. There he found acacia trees and brought them down to Egypt with him, in anticipation of the fact that one day his descendants would have to build a Mishkan. When the Jews left Egypt, they took the wood with them and used it to build the Mishkan. It appears that Jacob was in early on the plan to eventually build a Mishkan and even provided some of the materials for its construction.

Even more remarkable is the original source of the acacia trees that Jacob found in Be’er Sheva. According to the Medrash [94:4], those trees were originally planted by none other than the Patriarch Abraham, as the verse [Bereishit 21:33] says, “And he [Abraham] planted an ‘Eshel’ in Be’er Sheva.” Our sages interpret the word ‘Eshel’ to mean an “orchard of trees.” In other words, Abraham planted trees for the Mishkan, Jacob brought them down to Egypt, and the Jewish people took them into the desert on their way out and used them to build the Mishkan!

Furthermore, the verse makes it clear that Abraham used that orchard to help promote his precious views of monotheism, and in their original state as a tree orchard he built the first repository for the Divine Presence on earth in Be’er Sheva [see Keren Orah, Sotah 10a].

All in all, it is rather obvious that even if the Mishkan of the desert was not entirely analogous to the tents of the Patriarchs, their influence was unmistakable. Long before the Jewish people built a national home for the Shechinah [Divine Presence], the Patriarchs and Matriarchs constructed personal abodes for this purpose through their exemplary devotion to His cause. Perhaps our willingness to emulate their shining example is what allowed us to create a national abode for the Shechinah, and this is what is symbolized in their contribution of acacia wood.

Regards,
Rabbi Elazar Meisels

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Parsha at a Glance

Itamar, a son of Aaron the Kohen, oversaw the Levites’ work on the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The parsha then gives an accounting of the quantities of the materials – gold, silver, and copper – donated by the Jewish people for the construction of the Mishkan. The parts of the structure, the utensils, and the clothing of the kohanim are listed. After each description, the Torah states that the item was made according to the command of G-d to Moses. After the work of the Mishkan was completed, the Jewish people consulted Moses, who inspected and verified that everything was indeed made according to G-d’s command. Moses blessed them.

G-d told Moses that the dedication of the Mishkan would take place on the first of the month of Nissan, in the second year of the Jewish people’s travels in the desert. He then gave him instructions in placement of the utensils and the order of the Mishkan’s establishment.

On the first of Nissan, Moses erected the entire Mishkan himself. He did exactly as G-d had commanded.

The Cloud of Glory covered the Tent of Meeting, and His Glory filled the Mishkan. Whenever the Cloud lifted, Moses could enter to speak with G-d. The Cloud served during the years in the desert as a signal for the Jewish people to travel to a new location. A fire indicated G-d’s presence at night. The entire Jewish people witnessed this miracle throughout their journeys.

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