Themes and ideas in the haftara
This haftara series is dedicated in memory
of our beloved Chaya Leah bat Efrayim Yitzchak
(Mrs. Claire Reinitz), zichronah livracha,
by her family.
Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein
The haftara for Parashat Vayahkel (according to Sephardic
custom, Melakhim I 7:13-39; according to Ashkenazic custom, Melakhim
I 7:40-50) is yet another entry in the series of haftarot taken from
the chapters of Melakhim dealing with Shlomo's
One of the striking differences between the account of the
The main desire in the Mishkan is the site of the resting of the Shekhina which is the ark, as it is stated: And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the covering (Shemot 25:22). Therefore, the ark and its cover are mentioned first, for it is first in importance. And following the ark come the table and the candelabrum which are vessels like it. They teach about the essence of the Mishkan which was made for them. (Commentary on Shemot 25:2)
Without going into a broad halakhic discussion regarding the precise relationship between the Mishkan and the vessels, it is clear to anyone who reads Parashat Teruma and Parashat Vayakhel that the vessels are a central component of the Mikdash.
In contrast, the passages in the book of Melakhim are formulated
very differently. The candelabrum, the table and the altar play only a minor
role in the description of the
In other words, in the book of Shemot the walls serve as a shell
for the vessels that are the heart of the Mishkan, whereas in the book of
Melakhim the structure itself is central, while the vessels are meant
merely to fill the structure. This point is especially striking in our
haftara. If we read the account of the building of the
The contrast to what we find in the Mishkan could not be greater.
There, the pillars serve exclusively to hold up the curtains of the Mishkan
and support the structure, and therefore there is no mention of any
decorative elements. Needless to say, the pillars do not have names, capitals or
nets of checker work. Thus, in addition to the contrast mentioned above between
the descriptions of the Mishkan and Shlomo's
The truth is that the pillars are not merely ornamental, but also monumental. They are eighteen cubits tall, twelve cubits in circumference, and their capitals are five cubits in height. These dimensions also attest to the fact that the building, with its pillars, was meant to impress and to fill a symbolic and representational role in addition to its functional role.
A similar process is also evident in the second utensil that stars in the haftara: the sea and the bases. These correspond to the laver and its pedestal that appear in Ki-Tisa. Whereas the Torah presents the laver in utmost brevity as a functional vessel that contains water, the main purpose of which is to enable the priests to wash their hands and feet (And you shall make a laver of brass for washing and you shall put water in it. For Aharon and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat), in our haftara the sea becomes a vessel with independent importance and symbolic significance. Its functional purpose is not even mentioned. This is especially striking in the account of the base. It merits a separate section, has its own name and is not merely an appendage to the laver as it is in the Torah a laver of brass, and its pedestal also of brass (Shemot 30:18) and it is crowned and decorated with animal figures and keruvim between its borders. According to various opinions, the symbolism of these decorations is exceedingly significant; the Radak (v. 33) goes as far as to say that these decorations are an expression of the Shekhina's heavenly chariot!
Here too, the dimensions of the laver are very large (five cubits high and
thirty cubits in circumference) and they reflect the tendency toward monumental
dimensions, beyond functional necessity, that rules in the
It should be noted further that Shlomo did not suffice with one candelabrum and one laver, as were found in the Mishkan, but built ten of each, despite the fact that one of each would have been enough to fulfill the relevant mitzvot. What is evident here is an increase in magnitude and the creation of the impression of power and prosperity, above and beyond what was needed on the practical level. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the altar constructed by Shlomo was exceedingly large considerably larger than the altar made by Moshe.
The conclusion that arises from all this is that with the building of the
Temple, the format of the Mishkan changed considerably, translating into
a larger building of great dimensions, decorated with precious metals, carved
walls, wonderfully fitted decorations, and large and numerous vessels. The
principle underlying the building was splendor and majesty, which found
expression in the larger dimensions, material wealth and structural decorations.
It should be emphasized that in the wake of Chazal's accounts of the
All this stands in stark contrast to the Mishkan in the wilderness. This was a temporary structure that could be taken apart, its roof was a tent, and its dimensions were much more modest. It seems that this is not only an aesthetic difference but also an expression of a different kind of spiritual experience. The Mishkan conveyed a feeling of intimacy between man and God; it was sort of a small, pleasant cottage, in which man could be alone with his God. Of course, there too there was a responsibility to maintain reverence, and the quality of rejoicing with trembling prevailed, but its purpose was not to be a structure that broadcasted strength and power to the outside. Rather, the purpose of the Mishkan was to express the relationship between man and God. The prophecy of Yeshayahu, The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it (Yeshayahu 2:2), reflects the ethos of the Temple that faced outward with an intensity of strength, and whose architecture was intended to express this. The Mishkan, on the other hand, did not accord with this model.
Additionally, it seems that the second distinction between the two institutions
the inversion of the relationship between the vessels and the building
reflects a more fundamental difference between them. The vessels as independent
works of art, as the candelabrum is described in Shemot, serve the goal
of bringing God close to man; they are like an ornament that attests to the
closeness between the two. This point is stated explicitly in the famous
midrash about the candelabrum, which states that it is testimony to mankind
that the Shekhina rests upon
To summarize, there are significant differences between the Mishkan and
the Temple: the former conveyed intimacy and modesty, while the other expressed
strength and power; the former placed greater emphasis on the quality of love,
while the latter emphasized the quality of fear; the former turned inward and
was directed exclusively at Israel, while the latter looked out to all of
humanity. Therefore, in the Mishkan the building is simple and
functional, whereas in the
Were we to formulate this in more popular language and translate the matter with
a metaphor taken from our own religious world, we might say that the
In this context, two points should be noted: 1) In the account of the dedication
And the ends of the staves were seen
How so? They pressed forth and protruded
as the two breasts of a woman, as it is stated: My beloved is unto me as a bag
of myrrh, that lies between my breasts (Shir Ha-shirim 1:13). Rav Katina
In light of this, it
may be argued that the design of the
Why did this transition from Mishkan to
In conclusion, the haftara presents the model of the
opportunity to read a haftara dealing with Shlomo's
 The starting
point of such a discussion is the disagreement between the Rambam, the Ra'avad
and the Ramban regarding the number of mitzvot connected to the building
 See also the opening verses of Parashat Tetzave (Shemot 27:20-21), which deal with the lighting of the lamps of the candelabrum as well, and the verses in Vayikra 24 and Bemidbar 5.
 The altar,
like the ark, makes a significant appearance in the account of Shlomo's
dedication of the
 The base,
referred to here as mekhona, is called the
 See Zevachim 59b.