SALT - Tuesday, 19 Adar 5778 - March 6, 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
            We read in Parashat Pekudei that when Moshe saw that the Mishkan and its furnishings had been constructed in accordance with God’s commands, he blessed the people (“va-yevarekh otam Moshe” – 39:43).  Rashi, based on Chazal (in Torat Kohanim, Shemini), tells us the text of Moshe’s blessing: “May it be His will that the Shekhina should reside in your handiwork.”  The simple meaning of this blessing is that as the artisans built the Mishkan in strict accordance with God’s commands, it was worthy of fulfilling its intended purpose – serving as a residence for the divine presence, as God initially said, “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I shall reside among them” (25:8).
            Rav Shlomo of Radomsk, however, in Tiferet Shlomo, suggests a different reading of this blessing.  He writes that the phrase “ma’aseh yedeikhem” (“your handiwork”) in Moshe’s blessing refers not to the Mishkan, but rather to the people’s ordinary, daily pursuits and activities.  Moshe wished the people that in the merit of their generous contributions to the construction of the Mishkan, they should enjoy blessing and prosperity in all their day-to-day endeavors.  The Tiferet Shlomo further explains that Moshe here admonished the people to ensure that all their “handiwork” should be conducted in a sacred manner, that the construction of the Mishkan should affect everything they do, inspiring them to elevate all their activities to a higher plane.
            The Tiferet Shlomo’s reading of Moshe’s blessing seeks to dispel the possible misconception that the designation of a site as a place of holiness means that sanctity cannot be experienced elsewhere.  The concept of a Mishkan, an earthly abode of the divine presence, could be misconstrued as an indication that spirituality and sanctity are reserved for that location, and cannot be achieved anywhere else.  The Tiferet Shlomo thus emphasizes that although God’s presence “resided” in the Mishkan, the objective of the Mishkan was to enhance the spiritual quality of all of Benei Yisrael’s lives.  The Mishkan signified the notion that God resided among the people because they lived in an especially dignified and Godly manner.  His “residence” in the Mishkan served not to negate the significance of all other locations, but to the contrary, to motivate the people to maintain the highest standards in everything they did.
            The message being conveyed is that holiness is achieved not merely by allocating time for sacred endeavors, but by conducting ourselves in all areas of life on a special level of spiritual awareness.  The sanctity of the “Mishkan,” of our religious institutions and our purely religious undertakings, must permeate the totality of our lives, and lead us to conduct all our affairs in a manner befitting the people among whom the Almighty has chosen to reside.