This week we begin reading about the Mishkan and its vessels. We read about the Menorah, the source of light and chachma; the shulchan, the source of all bracha; and the mizbaiach hazahav and nechoshes. We will read about the kohanim’s garments and the avodah that they performed in the Mishkan. We also read about the kohen gadol and his special garments and the avodah that he performed.
Today we can only imagine what it was like to see such a lofty place and service. So much detail is given to all the beauty and splendor of the Mishkan. In fact, it is the longest topic discussed in the written Torah.
Klal Yisroel left Mitzrayim with extreme wealth, which was used to dedicate the Mishkan. We are told that the Mishkan served as an atonement for the chet ha’eigel. There is an interesting observation that I heard regarding the eigel. If 600,000 extremely wealthy men donated gold to the eigel effort, you would expect to see a herd of gold elephants. How did they end up with a little calf? The humorous answer is that when Jews are collecting money, somewhere along the way you will end up with only a small calf!
Getting back to the Mishkan, the purpose of all the splendor of the Mishkan was for the hashra’as hashechina, which emanated from on top of the Aron, more specifically from in-between the kruvim on the Kapores.
The Gemara in Baba Basra 99a notes a contradiction in the pesukim regarding which way the kruvim were facing. One pasuk says they were facing each other, while another says that they were facing the house – away from each other. The Gemara answers that when Klal Yisrael were following the will of Hashem, the kruvim were facing each other. When they were not, the kruvim miraculously turned their heads around.
We are told of an interesting dialogue that took place when Bnei Yisrael were building the Mishkan. Moshe Rabbenu wanted to build the vessels for the Mishkan before the actual Mishkan. Betzallel countered, that the derech haolam – way of the world – is to first build a house and then build the furniture. Moshe turned to Hashem and inquired, and Hashem responded that Betzallel was correct: the Mishkan should be built first.
The obvious question is what was Moshe Rabbenu thinking? Why did he want to build the kailim, the furniture, before the Mishkan, the house?
I heard in the name of my rebbe, Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, zt”l, the Mirrer rosh yeshiva, that Moshe knew that the derech haolam was to build the house before the furniture. However, he felt that since we are building the Mishkan Hashem, a spiritual house, we should do the exact opposite of what the ways of this material world does. Kedusha has nothing to do with mundane processes.
Hashem answered that He wants His spiritual house to be built using the physical processes of this world. By using the materialistic aspects of this world properly and for the right things, we have the ability to elevate them into spiritual items.
The same applied to the mirrors of the kiyor. The women brought the mirrors that they had used in Metztrayim to beautify themselves and attract their husbands. Moshe Rabbenu felt that such an item did not belong in the Mishkan. However, Hashem answered that since they used these physical items for a holy use with the correct intentions, they elevated them to a spiritual level and they most definitely should be used in the Mishkan.
The Kutzker Rebbe is quoted as explaining the pasuk in Parshas Mishpatim that says “anshei kodesh tiyu li” – Hashem wants holy people, not holy malachim. Our job is not to be a malach, but a human being who utilizes our mundane bodily needs to elevate our spiritual nishamos to reach higher levels of kedusha.
May we meet this challenge, and in that regard build a Mishkan in our own lives, and be zoche to greet Mashiach Tzidkeinu, amen.