Jewish nation is com- manded to build the mishkan with all of its details. The basic structure consisted of forty eight wooden boards covered with several layers of cur- tains. The Torah tells us that the wood used for the boards was 'atzei shittim,' usually translated as acacia wood. The Midrash Rabbah to our parsha (35:1) says that God specifically chose this tree because it does not bear fruit. The message, says the Midrash, is that we should be careful about destroying fruit trees. If God, to whom
everything in the universe belongs, uses non-fruit trees to build His own house, all
the more so should a human being be careful to build his own structures out of non- fruit-bearing trees. Aside
from this lesson about destroying fruit trees for building purposes, this Midrash may carry other, less obvious messages as well.
In commanding the produc- tion of curtains for the Mishkan,the Torah says, "And you shall make the Mishkan of ten curtains" (Shemos, 26:1). Rashi in par- shas Vayakheil points out that the Mishkan is named after the lower layer of cur- tains. Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch, in his sefer, Pninei Da'as, comments on our verse that we would really expect the Torah to refer to
not appreciate our gifts,at the opening ofthis week's parsha Hashem requests us to take terumah for him. How are we to under- stand the apparently difficult command to give Hashem terumah,something which, like everything else, already belongs to Him?
Rashi answers with one word: "lishmi,\u201d [for my Name]. He means to say that the Terumah command is not meant to fill a
void but to advance Hashem's reputation in the world. Many mitzvos must be done \u201clishmah\u201d(for the sake ofthe command- ment), including matzah, tzitzis, and the writing of a Torah, but why must terumah also be done \u201clishmah\u201d? The Ramban con- nects the Mishkan under construction to the revelation at Har Sinai and the delegation of the Jews as Hashem's chosen people. The Mishkan, the Ramban explains, is the sta-
tionary extension of the delegation of the Jews as the mobile representatives of Hashem.As the Jews were meant to advance Hashem's Name throughout the world,all work connected to the Mishkan was also to be undertaken \u201clishmah,\u201d to advance His reputation.Similarly, by terumah, since the ultimate purpose was spreading Hashem\u2019s name, \u201clishma\u201d was required.
pared Yeshayahu\u2019s throne room vision (Yeshayahu 6:1-3) to Yehezkel\u2019s ma\u2019aseh ha-merkavah. This week, we will discuss the same vision in relation to the prophecy of Moshe Rabbenu.
Though deeply inspired by Yeshayahu\u2019s throne room vision, Chazal noticed a theological dif- ficulty with it.
Moshe, the Master of the Prophets, had been told by God: \u201cYou cannot see My face, for no man shall see Me and live\u201d (Shemos 33:20). How, then, could Yeshayahu see God,and live to tell about it?
The Talmud offers the following answer: \u201c\u2018I saw the Lord\u2019 (Yeshayahu 6:1) [is to be under- stood] in accordance with the tenet that all the prophets looked through a dim glass, but Moshe looked through a clear glass
Shemos, the Ramban explains that the building of the Mishkan represented the completion of the geulah from Egypt. It is incorrect to translate geulah as a mere \u201cexodus.\u201d Geulah implies a return to previous spiritual heights
\u201cexodus\u201d implies a mere physical escape.
In order to be redeemed the Jewish People had \u201cto return to the level that their forefathers had
achieved,\u201d w h i c h involved the actual resting of the Divine Presence on their tents. According to the Ramban, the
main dimension in which geulah must occur is spiritual, and thus,
physical escape from Egypt was only the first step to redemption. The story of geulah extends far beyond the end ofthe Exodus from Egypt,the complete geulah only occurring with the fin- ishing of the Mishkan when the Divine Presence could once again be found amongst the tents of the Jewish People.
mate goal is the formation of a dwelling place for the Shechinah. As there is no Beis Hamikdash or Mishkan standing today, what the Jewish People do now to achieve this exalted mission? Even though the full national realization of intimacy with Hashem can come only through the return to Israel and the erection of the third Beis Hamikdash,there is at least one common Jewish item today that allows us to
achieve a taste of that closeness\u2014 the Aron (\u201cArk
e Covenant\u201d). T
e R a m b a n points out that
the Aron was the
D i v i n e Revelation in the Mishkan, as Hashem told the Jewish People, \u201cI [Hashem] shall speak
from atop\u2026theA ron\u201d(Shemos 25:22).The Aron, which in ancient times contained the Luchos Habris, represents Torah.Every single member of the Jewish People needed to contribute something to its creation, \u201cin order that they [the Jewish people] should merit Torah.\u201d This is the rea-
place for the
(Yevamot 49b)." In other words, Yeshayahu truly believed that he saw God, but his vision was not fully accurate, though he did not perceive this distortion. On the other hand, because Moshe\u2019s prophecy was vastly superior to that of Yeshayahu, he truly understood that he could not see God.
One Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 1:14) similarly suggests that Yehezkel saw through nine lenses, whereas Moshe looked through only one when experiencing prophecy. The Midrash con- cludes that Yehezkel perceived prophecy through a \u201cdirty\u201d lens, i.e., his vision was clouded and he also could not see fully through to the other side.
Rabbenu Bahya, followed by sev- eral later commentators (includ- ing Akedat Yitzhak, Abarbanel and Malbim), adds another dimension to this Talmudic pas- sage by referring to God\u2019s distinc- tion between Moshe\u2019s prophecy and that of all other prophets:
He said, Hear now My words; If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision (ba-mar\u2019ah), and will speak to him in a dream. Not so with My ser- vant Moshe, for he is the trusted one in all My house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, manifest- ly (ba-mar\u2019eh), and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moshe? (Bamidbar 12:6- 8).
Rabbenu Bahya explains that a mar\u2019eh is a vision,and that is how Moshe perceived God. However, all other prophets, by looking through an opaque lens, saw a mar\u2019ah, a mirror. By advancing this interpretation, he intimates that the vision of other prophets was colored to some degree by their personality. Thus, non- Moshe prophets in fact perceived
a combination of objectivity and subjectivity in their prophecies. They combined true perception of God with their spiritual attain- ments, historical circumstances, and the needs of their audiences. Moshe, in contrast, was unique in his perception of objective Truth. Moshe, who enjoyed the closest relationship to God, appreciated God\u2019s infinitude like none other\u2014he truly understood that he could not see God and live.
Given that God\u2019s praise of Moshe\u2019s unparalleled prophecy appears in the same chapter as the Torah\u2019s praise of Moshe\u2019s match- less humility (Bamidbar 12:3), it appears that these two elements are integrally linked. The extent of one\u2019s humility is the extent that God\u2019s presence is welcomed within. As Chazal derive from Yeshayahu\u2019s vision, \u201cIf one walks with a stiff bearing even for four cubits, it is as if he pushed against the heels of the Divine Presence, since it is written, \u2018the whole earth is full of His glory\u2019 (Yeshayahu 6:3) \u201d (Berakhot 43b).
Although we have been dis- cussing the nature of non-Moshe prophecy, these principles apply all the more to non-prophets. By definition, we have objective and subjective components mixed into our perceptions. Personal background and experience, the circumstances of our times, our levels of spiritual and intellectual attainment, and other variables contribute to our overall percep- tion ofTruth. The greater one\u2019s humility and religious character, the greater one\u2019s ability is to tran- scend those variables that cloud human perception. Somewhat paradoxically, apprehending this lack of true clarity may bring us one step closer to gaining clarity in our ever-growing relationship with God.
the boards as the Mishkan, since the boards give the structure physical sta- bility, while the curtains only serve as a covering. That the curtains define the Mishkan tells us that it is not necessar- ily the strongest physical aspect ofthe Mishkan that defines it and constitutes its true foundation. Similarly, it is not the material aspects of the Jewish nation that define its nature, the essence of the nation being the spiritu- ality of its members. Within the con- text of Rabbi Bloch's remarks, the fact that the wood used for the boards was not fruit-bearing takes on added sig- nificance. The simple acacia wood
that does not bear fruit further de- emphasizes the centrality of the boards in defining the mishkan, turn- ing our focus away from the physical strength of the structure.
Another lesson can be learned from the use of a non-fruit tree in the mishkan. The Aron was also made of atzei shittim, which was then overlaid on the inside and outside with gold. The Aron, which housed the tablets and the Sefer Torah written by Moshe, represents the written law, while the Menorah, the Rabbis tell us, represents the oral law. The Chasam Sofer writes that the designs on the Menorah \u2013 the
knobs, the flowers, etc. \u2013 are symbolic of the details of the oral laws and the many elaborate explanations given by students over the generations. All of the laws stem from one main body, the written Torah. Perhaps this explains why the core of the Aron, which rep- resents the written law, was made of \u2018atzei shittim,\u2019 a tree that does not pro- duce new fruit every season. The basic text of the written law is unchanging; it does not produce \u201cfruit.\u201d The oral law explains the true meaning of the written law, but the text of the written law, represented by acacia wood, is immutable.
son, the Shemos Rabbah (33:6) explains, that the command to build the Aron was uniquely stated in the plural (25:10), an adress to all Jews.
Additionally, Rabbeinu Bachyei explains that the root of the word \u201cAron\u201d is \u201cohr,\u201d or light, which represents the light of the Torah.
The Maharal on Pirkei Avos (3:5) explains that the real force behind the Mishkan, which let the Shechinah to rest upon the Jewish People, was the Torah. It is written in tractate Berachot that, \u201cEven one person who learns Torah, the Shechinah is with him.\u201d The Maharal quotes a Midrash that gives the follow-
ing parable. A king once agreed to marry off his only daughter to a prince from a foreign land and was subsequently over- taken by love for his daughter; he could not bear the prospect of their separa- tion. Therefore, he told the prince, \u201cI can\u2019t hold her back from you because she is your wife, but I cannot leave her either. Do me this one favor. Wherever you go make a small room where I can stay, and this way I shall have a place to visit her.\u201d So too, Hashem could not bear to part with His Torah. Therefore, He commanded the Jewish People to make a dwelling place where He could
reside and stay close to it. Ideally, there should always be a special place where Hashem\u2019s Presence can reside close to the Torah; however, even if that place doesn\u2019t exist, since Hashem cannot bear to be separate from his treasure, the Torah, whenever a person learns Torah as an individual, Hashem lets that indi- vidual savor some of the intimacy and love that former generations were grant- ed in much greater abundance. May the merit of our Torah learning bring us Divine intimacy in all our endeavors!
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