Concerning the Mishkan
STUDENT SUMMARIES OF SICHOT OF THE RASHEI YESHIVA
SICHA OF HARAV
Concerning the Mishkan
A. Mikdash vs. Mishkan
We generally use the terms Mishkan and Mikdash as names for the various structures in which Gods Shekhina rested. The Mishkan (Sanctuary) refers to the portable structure that Moshe established in the desert, as well as to the temporary edifice that Benei Yisrael established in Shilo under Yehoshuas leadership following fourteen years of conquest and division of the land. The Mikdash is the building that King Shlomo built in Jerusalem and which Nevukhadnetzar destroyed (the First Temple), as well as the building that Zerubavel and Yehoshua ben Yehotzadak built with the return of the Babylonian exile under Persian rule (the Second Temple); King Herod renovated this building and Titus destroyed it. It is this building that we pray will be built again speedily in our days, and it will stand forever - Amen, and so may it be Gods will.
The Gemara tends to conflate these two terms:
We find that the Mikdash is called Mishkan and the Mishkan is called Mikdash. (Eruvin 2a)
In fact, these two terms have additional, more specific significance. This Gemara mentions the verse that describes how the Kehatim, bearers of the Mikdash, shall bear... where it is in fact the Ark of the Covenant that is referred to as the Mikdash. Perhaps we should interpret in the same light the verse mentioning the Mikdash in our parasha (although the Gemara interprets it as referring to the entire building):
THEY SHALL MAKE ME A MIKDASH and I shall dwell in their midst. As all that I show you, the form of the Mishkan and the form of all its vessels - so shall you fashion [them]. AND THEY SHALL MAKE AN ARK of shittim wood, two cubits and a half long, and a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. (25:8-10)
From verse 10 onwards the Torah specifies the form of the
In the next verse, the word Mikdash again refers
to the Ark of the Covenant: See, now, that God has chosen you to build A HOUSE
FOR THE MIKDASH; be strong and do it (Divrei Ha-yamim I 28:10).
At the beginning of the same chapter, David tells the officers of
Hear me, my brethren and my people: I had it in my heart to build A HOUSE OF REST FOR THE ARK OF GODS COVENANT... (ibid. verse 2).
A comparison of the two verses shows that the Mikdash
The Mishkan in its more specific sense refers to the bottom layer of curtains:
YOU SHALL MAKE THE MISHKAN OF TEN CURTAINS, fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet, [with] artistic keruvim shall you fashion them (26:1).
In contrast, when it comes to the construction of the boards, we are told: You shall fashion the boards FOR THE MISHKAN... (26:18). The boards are FOR the Mishkan, while the curtains themselves are the Mishkan.
Indeed, when the Mishkan was established in Shilo, it was built of stone; the boards were put away, since they were not essential to the Mishkan. But the stone edifice in Shilo was built without a permanent roof; the curtains of the Mishkan that Betzalel and Oholiav had made in the desert were placed over it. It is these very curtains that gave the building its name - Mishkan.
Let us now address the relationship between the specific
references of the terms Mishkan and Mikdash. The Mikdash,
as we have said, was the
These are the accounts of the Mishkan, the MISHKAN OF
TESTIMONY, as they were counted by Moshes word, the work of the Leviim
being by the hand of Itamar
The rest of the shiur will focus on this name for the Mishkan.
B. Mishkan and ohel
As we have noted, in Sefer Shemot and in Sefer Bamidbar, the name by which the building is usually known is Mishkan. In Sefer Vayikra, on the other hand, it is referred to as the ohel moed (tent of meeting). Sometimes both names appear together:
He abandoned the Mishkan of Shilo, the tent (ohel) where He dwelled among people (Tehillim 78:60).
In these verses and in Sefer Vayikra, ohel is the general name for the whole building. More specifically, ohel refers to the goat skins that were spread over the curtains of the Mishkan:
You shall fashion curtains out of goatskins as a covering (ohel) over the Mishkan; you shall make eleven curtains (26:7).
Let us examine more closely the difference between the curtains of the Mishkan and the curtains of the ohel. The curtains that comprise the Mishkan are splendid, royal items, fashioned from the finest of materials: blue, purple and scarlet thread, fine twisted linen, with artistic keruvim woven into them. Their loops are made of blue thread, with gold clasps joining them. These curtains are relatively short; they drape over and hang in the air - nowhere do they reach the ground.
The curtains comprising the ohel, on the other
hand, are not necessary beautiful. They are black - the color of goat hair in
this region in biblical times. (White goats were imported to the area only much
later on.) When these curtains covered the Mishkan curtains, the
Mishkan would probably have looked like one of the Bedouin shepherd tents
familiar to us from the
There is an obvious, technical explanation for the difference between the two sets of curtains: the Mishkan curtains are the bottom - i.e., inner - layer. They are visible to anyone who stands inside the Mishkan, and they are the essence of its content. These curtains are beautiful, but they are delicate and cannot withstand desert weather conditions without fading or tearing. Desert weather features drastic changes in temperature between day and night, sand storms, sudden showers, etc. The ohel curtains surround the Mishkan curtains on the outside. They are less beautiful, but sturdier and more resistant to weather damage.
But perhaps there is also a more fundamental, qualitative difference between the two sets of curtains. Let us consider this difference through the perspective of Shir Ha-shirim:
I am black but beautiful, O daughters of
Chazal, in their midrashim, note the contrast between black and beautiful. As they understand the concepts, black means ugly. Actually, the parallel in this verse seems to be as follows:
am black - but comely, O daughters of
like the tents of Kedar - like Shlomos curtains
as though it was saying, I am black like the tents of
Kedar, but beautiful like Shlomos curtains. The nation of
The image of God, who dwells in the Mishkan and the
ohel, is similar to that of Kenesset Yisrael. God is the Supreme
King of kings, and the nation of
He will feed His flock like a Shepherd, gathering the lambs in His arm and carrying them in His bosom, and leading those that have young (Yishayahu 40:11).
Therefore, so says the Lord God of
For so says the Lord God: Behold, I shall search for My flock and seek them
out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day when he is among his sheep
that have strayed, so I shall seek out My sheep and save them from all the
places to which they have been scattered on the cloudy, misty day. I shall take
them out from among the nations and gather them from the lands, and will bring
them to their land, and feed them at the mountains of
Like a shepherd pasturing his flocks in the desert, so God feeds and sustains His nation with bread and water, and protects them from all enemies and troubles.
It appears that Moshes staff - symbolizing Gods outstretched arm - was also originally a simple shepherds staff. It obviously served him to ward off bandits and animals of prey while he shepherded the flocks of Yitro, his father-in-law, in the wilderness. This same weapon came to be used against Pharoah and against Amalek, symbolizing the arm of God leading His people in the wilderness for forty years. And Gods resting place is in the ohel made of goat hair curtains and brass clasps.
Let us return to Shir Ha-shirim. Gods two images in this text are the Beloved (My Beloved answered and said to me: Arise, My love, My fair one, and come...), and Shlomo (Go out and see, O daughters of Jerusalem, King Shlomo, wearing the crown that his mother crowned him with on the day of his wedding, on the day of his hearts gladness). Closer examination shows that as the Beloved, God appears from the desert, as a shepherd and as a gazelle; an appearance that seems spontaneous and sudden, while as Shlomo, Gods appearance is royal and grand.
Gods appearances parallel the images of David - the shepherd and warrior defending his people, whose life amongst the nation is replete with ups and downs, love and alienation; and Shlomo - the magnificent king, ruling over all the lands, whose life amongst the nation is fixed and institutionalized; his status clear and unequivocal.
C. Testimony and Meeting
We have noted that the Mishkan is referred to as
the Mishkan of Testimony, while the ohel is called the Ohel
Moed (tent of meeting). Just as the ohel curtains are laid upon
the Mishkan curtains, so the kaporet (covering) is laid over the
When Moshe came to the Ohel Moed to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the kaporet that was upon the Ark of Testimony, from between the two keruvim, and it spoke with him (Bamidbar 7:89).
The testimony (edut) is the Written Law, the written Tablets. The meeting (hivaadut) is the giving of the Oral Law. God meets with Moshe in the Ohel Moed (tent of meeting), and speaks with him.
The Tablets of Testimony represent the institutionalized
relations between Am Yisrael and the King Who appears at
In both appearances - both edut (testimony) and hivaadut (meeting), both Ark (aron) and kaporet (covering), both Mishkan and ohel, both Written Law and Oral Law, Shepherd and King, David and Shlomo - the relationship between God and His people is realized in the Mishkan.
We have addressed the Mishkan as a Mishkan of testimony, but the Kodesh Ha-Kodashim also houses another item - a container of manna.
The Torah takes care to specify exact measurements for the
construction of the Mishkan: two cubits and a half is the length of the
In the visions of God He brought me into Eretz Yisrael, and placed me upon a very high mountain, upon which was a structure like that of a city to the south (Yechezkel 40:2).
In the mans hand was a measuring rod of six cubits, by a cubit and a handbreadth (Yechezkel 40:5)
Yehezkel goes on to rebuke the people:
...Let them be ashamed of their sins, and measure the form (Yechezkel 43:10).
Yechezkel sees an angel measuring the spaces, porches, openings, and posts; the angel goes on to measure chambers and floors, courtyards and tables, the house and its sides, the galleries, and the walls; the altar and the courtyards; the measurements of the Temple Mount and of Jerusalem, the areas for the Kohanim and Leviim, and - finally - the portion of the prince.
It would seem that the minute detail of Yechezkels specifications is meant to lead up to his concluding prophecy:
So says the Lord God: You have done enough, O princes of
All the exactness and precision of the measurements of the Mikdash comes to teach us the proper precision of a judge in judgment and of a shopkeeper in his measurements. If a proper efa is missing from the market, the yardstick for measuring Gods Sanctuary is likewise absent.
The container of manna placed in the Mishkan is an omer-full. In our shiur on Parashat Beshalach we discussed at length the mannas function as a test for Benei Yisrael: could the entire nation gather each person in accordance with his eating, or would one person exceed what he needed and gather part of his neighbors portion?
Measures and weights, in addition to serving as a test for Benei Yisrael in the wilderness, are also a precondition for God resting His Shekhina in His Mishkan.