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Parashah Terumah: The Placement Of The Mishkan’s Planks


Artists rendering of the Tabernacle

Artists rendering of the Tabernacle
Photo Credit: Gerard Hoet/P. de Hondt

In this week’s parshah the Torah discusses many of the various aspects of the mishkan. The Torah dictates in detail the manner in which the walls of the mishkan were to be erected. At the instructions’ conclusion, the pasuk says, “Vahakeimosa es hamishkan, k’mishpato asher har’eisa bahar – and you shall erect the mishkan according to its laws, as you will have been shown on the mountain” (Shemos 26:30). The Yerushalmi in Shabbos (12:3) asks what the Torah was referring to when it said the “laws” of the planks of wood. The Yerushalmi explains that the pasuk is teaching us that the planks that were positioned on the north side must remain on that side every time the mishkan was to be erected. And the same applied for the planks of wood on each side of the mishkan.

The sefer Tov Yerushalayim, in the commentary on Yerushalmi, asks why the Torah deemed it necessary to write an additional pasuk to teach that the planks of wood erected on each side be re-erected in their original places. Why would we not have known this from the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin – regarding kedushah we only move higher and not lower? Based on this rule one would not be allowed to move the planks that were on the north side, which were in a position of a higher- level kedushah, to a place of a lower level of kedushah i.e. the south side. So what is the need for the pasuk in this parshah?

Some Achronim suggest that the Yerushalmi is indeed referring to the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin. The Yerushalmi is stating that this pasuk, teaching us not to switch the places of the wood’s planks, is the Torah’s source for the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin.

Rashi, in his commentary to Megillah, quotes a Tosefta that says that the source for the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin is from a different aspect of the mishkan. The Tosefta says that we learn it from the fact that Bezalel made the mishkan and Moshe Rabbeinu, who was greater than him, erected it. Additionally, we learn that one may not move to a lower level of kedushah due to the fact that the frying pans that were used by Korach and his congregation needed to be kept holy. (They were sanctified, and thus unable to be discarded.)

One can infer from this that Rashi and the Tosefta (that he quoted) believe that the source for the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin is from a different source. Thus the question returns: Why did the Torah need to write another pasuk to teach us that one was not allowed to move a plank to a place of lower kedushah?

Other Achronim suggest that the Yerushalmi is not teaching us the halacha of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin; rather the Yerushalmi derives from this pasuk that each plank acquired its place and therefore had to be returned to its place during the erections of the mishkan that followed. This was not because moving places would violate the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin, but because the planks acquired their places. Perhaps there was not even any more kedushah in the place on the north side over the place on the south side.

One can infer from the Yerushalmi that it is indeed not referring to the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin at all. This is because the Yerushalmi includes the halacha that the planks from the south wall cannot be moved to the north wall. If there was more kedushah in the place of the north wall, why would one not be allowed to move the south wall to the opposite wall, since it is of a higher kedushah? This implies that the Yerushalmi is not referring to the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin, and that the north side does not contain more kedushah than the south side.

The Elyah Raba (Orach Chaim 630) quotes a Maharal that says that his rebbe would mark each of the walls of his sukkah in order to be able to arrange them in the same order the following year. He cites the Yerushalmi regarding the planks as the source for this custom. Additionally, the Chasam Sofer (Teshuvos Orach Chaim 28) rules that once the bimah of a shul has been placed in one area it may not be moved to another area.

It is evident from these parallels (a sukkah and the bimah in a shul) that these Achronim draw the following perception of the Yerushalmi: it is teaching us that once something is placed, it acquires its place and cannot be switched to another place (unless the circumstances dictate otherwise). However, they do not believe that the reason that the planks could not switch places was because there was more kedushah in one place over another – thereby contradicting the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin.

About the Author: For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.


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