Shiur #24: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina(Part XII) - The Mishkan ֠Le-Khatchila or Be-di'eved (Part III)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Yeshivat Har Etzion


Shiur #24: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina

(Part XII)

The MishkanLe-Khatchila or Be-di'eved (Part III)


Rav Yitzchak Levi



            In this lecture, I wish to examine a number of issues connected to the question of whether the Mishkan was le-khatchila or be-di'eved.  In conclusion, I will propose an all-embracing explanation for these disagreements that is connected to the very essence of the Mishkan.




The Torah offers three accounts of the selection of the priests and the Levites:


1)         The selection of Aharon and his sons to serve as priests is described in the framework of the command regarding the Mishkan:


And take you to you Aharon your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel that he may minister to Me in the priest's office, Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, Elazar, and Itamar, the sons of Aharon.  (Shemot 28:1)


2)         The selection of the tribe of Levi is described in the wake of its actions during the incident of the golden calf:


And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moshe… For Moshe said, "Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, even every man against his son, and against his brother, that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day." (ibid.  32:28-29)


At that time, the Lord separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister to Him, and to bless in His name, to this day.  (Devarim 10:8; see Rashi, ad loc.  [cited below])


3)         The Torah describes how the tribe of Levi was given to the priests – to join them and minister to them, and to keep the charge of the Tent of Meeting:


Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aharon the priest, that they may minister to him… And you shall give the Levites to Aharon and to his sons.  They are wholly given to him out of the children of Israel.  (Bamidbar 3:6-9)


And your brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, bring near with you, that they may be joined to you, and minister to you… And they shall be joined to you, and keep the charge of the Tent of Meeting, for all the service of the tent… And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel.  To you they are given as a gift for the Lord, to do the service of the Tent of Meeting.  (ibid.  18:2-6)


            According to Rashi, the first stage was the selection of the tribe of Levi (2); during the second stage, Aharon and his sons were selected for the priesthood out of the tribe of Levi in the framework of the command regarding the Mishkan (1).  This position fits in with his general approach, according to which the command regarding the Mishkan was given after the sin of the golden calf.  Thus, Rashi writes on the verse: "Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord:" "You who are killing them will by this very act install yourselves as priests of the Omnipresent."[1] And on the verse, "At that time, the Lord separated the tribe of Levi," he comments:


"At that time" – In the first year of the exodus from Egypt, when you sinned by worshipping the golden calf, but the sons of Levi did not thus sin – at that time God separated them from you… "To bear the ark" – This was the function of the Levites.  "To stand before the Lord, to minister to Him and to bless in His name" – This was the function of the priests and refers to the "raising of the hands."


            We also saw in the previous lecture that, according to the Seforno, the firstborns – who represented "the kingdom of priests and the holy nation" (Shemot 19:6) – were replaced by a priestly family in the wake of the sin of the golden calf.[2]


            The Ramban, in contrast, interprets Devarim 10:8 as follows:


The correct interpretation, it appears to me, is that the expression "at that time" means that the second [giving of the tablets] was like the first.  For from the time He said to Moshe, "Hew two tablets of stone," He was reconciled with Israel, and Moshe was instructed regarding the construction of the Mishkan.  Then he was reconciled also with Aharon, and Moshe was commanded, "And they shall make holy garments for Aharon your brother, and his sons, to sanctify him, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office" (Shemot 28:4)… Moshe regarded the separation of the entire tribe [of Levi – priests and Levites] as one matter; [therefore, he said here "At that time" - when the second tablets were given, even though only the priests were formally separated, it was equivalent to a designation of the entire tribe, with the formal designation of the Levites to come after the first census] for from that day on it was [resolved] before Him that His tribe be wholly given unto Him to perform the service of the Mishkan. 


            The Ramban means as follows: As may be recalled, according to the Ramban, Moshe was commanded about the Mishkan during the first forty days that he was on Mount Sinai, and at that time he was also commanded about the holy garments for Aharon and his sons.  When God became reconciled with Israel, the original command regarding the Mishkan was once again in force (see lecture no.  22, II, 2, b) – including the command regarding those who were to serve in the Mishkan – and at that time the entire tribe of Levi was given over to Aharon to serve in the Mishkan.[3]


            According to Rashi and Seforno, who understand that the command to build the Mishkan was issued only after the sin involving the golden calf, the tribe of Levi was also only selected after the sin, by virtue of their not having worshipped the golden calf; at a later stage, Aharon and his sons were selected from among the Levites to serve as priests.  According to the Ramban, on the other hand, the selection of Aharon and his sons for the priesthood did not depend on the sin and in fact preceded the sin.  In this the Ramban is consistent with his own position that Moshe was commanded about the Mishkan prior to the sin.  At a later point, the entire tribe of Levi was chosen to join the priests in their service and minister to them in secondary roles.


            Thus, the Ramban demonstrates consistency.  Just as the Mishkan as a whole was le-khatchila, the selection of those who served therein was also le-khatchila – a selection that was entirely unconnected to the sin involving the golden calf.  Seforno is also consistent with his own position; just as the Mishkan as a whole was be-di'eved and a response to the sin, those who were to serve therein were selected as a result of the sin as well – by virtue of the fact that they had not sinned – and this selection was part of the constriction of the resting of the Shekhina in the wake of the sin (see the previous lecture).




Let us briefly review the le-khatchila/be-di'eved question with respect to the sacrificial service, a point about which the Rambam and the Ramban disagree.  The Rambam in his Moreh Nevukhim (III, 32) writes as follows:


… For a sudden transition from one opposite to another is impossible.  And therefore, man, according to his nature, is not capable of abandoning suddenly all to which he was accustomed.  As therefore God sent Moshe our master to make out of us a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, through the knowledge of Him, may He be exalted… And as at that time the way of life generally accepted and customary in the whole world… consisted in offering various species of living beings in the temples in which images were set up, in worshipping the latter, and in burning incense before them… His wisdom, may He be exalted, and His gracious ruse, which is manifest in regard to all His creatures, did not require that He give us a Law prescribing the rejection, abandonment, and abolition of all these kinds of worship.  For one could not then conceive the acceptance of [such a Law], considering the nature of man, which always likes that to which it is accustomed… Therefore, He, may He be exalted, suffered the above-mentioned kinds of worship to remain, but transferred them from created or imaginary and unreal things to His own name, may He be exalted, commanding us to practice them with regard to Him, may He be exalted… And He forbade the performance of any of these actions with a view to someone else… Through this Divine ruse it came about that the memory of idolatry was effaced and that the grandest and true foundation of our belief – namely, the existence and the oneness of the deity – was firmly established, while at the same time the souls had no feeling of repugnance and were not repelled because of the abolition of modes of worship to which they were accustomed and than which no other mode of worship was known at that time.


            The Rambam understands that God commanded the sacrificial service not because it is the ideal form of Divine worship, le-khatchila, but because at the time it was the accepted form of worshipping idols throughout the world.  According to him, sacrifices have no intrinsic objective; their goal is to help Israel deal with the idol worship that was so rampant all around them, to distance them from it, and to draw them close to the service of God.[4] Using this approach, the Rambam offers lengthy explanations of various details of the laws of the sacrificial service.  The Ramban presents one such explanation – why cattle, sheep and goats are species fit for the altar – in order to sharply disagree with it:


Now this verse mentions a reason for the offerings, namely, that they are a fire-offering, of a sweet savor to the Lord.  The Rabbi [the Rambam] wrote in the Moreh Nevukhim that the reason for the offerings is because the Egyptians and the Chaldeans, in whose lands the children of Israel were strangers and sojourners, always used to worship the herd and the flock, the Egyptians worshipping the sheep and the Chaldeans worshipping the demons whom they imagined as assuming the form of goats.  To this day the men of India never slaughter the herd.  It was for this reason that He commanded [Israel] to slaughter these three species [of cattle: the herd, the flock and the goats] to the Revered Name, so that it be known that the very act which the idol-worshippers considered to be the utmost sin, that same act should be done as an offering before the Creator, and through it Israel's sins would be forgiven.  For such is the way to cure people of false beliefs, which are the diseases of the human soul, for all diseases and sicknesses are healed by medicines which are antithetical to them.  These are the words [of the Rambam], and he expounded them at great length.

But these words are mere expressions, healing casually a severe wound and a great difficulty, and making the table of the Lord polluted, [as if the offerings were intended only] to remove false beliefs from the hearts of the wicked and fools of the world, when Scripture says that they are the food of the offering made by fire, for a sweet savor.  Moreover, [if the offerings were meant to eliminate] the foolish [ideas] of the Egyptians, their disease would not thereby be cured.  On the contrary, it would increase the cause of sorrow, for since the intention of the above-mentioned wicked ones was to worship the constellations of the sheep and the ox, which according to their opinion possess certain powers [over human affairs], and which is why they abstain from eating them in deference to their power and strength, then if these species are slaughtered to the Revered Name, it is a mark of respect and honor to [these constellations].  These worshippers themselves were in the habit of so doing, as He has said: "And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs" (Vayikra 17:7), and those who made the [golden] calf sacrificed to it.  Now the Rabbi mentions that the idol-worshippers used to sacrifice to the moon on the days of the new moon, and to the sun when it rose in a particular constellation known to them from their books.  The disease of idolatry would surely have been far better cured if we were to eat [these animal deities] to our full, which would be considered by them forbidden and repugnant, and something they would never do.

Furthermore, when Noach came out of the ark with his three sons, there were as yet no Chaldeans or Egyptians in the world, yet he brought an offering, which was pleasing to God, as concerning it Scripture says: "And the Lord smelled the sweet savor" (Bereishit 8:21), and on account of it "He said in His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake" (ibid.).  Hevel likewise brought of the first-born of his flock and of the fat thereof.  "And the Lord had regard unto Hevel and to his offering" (Bereishit 4:4).  Yet there was not the slightest trace at all of idol-worship in the world! Bil'am said: "I have prepared the seven altars, and I have offered up a bullock and a ram on every altar" (Numbers 23:4).  His intent then was not to eradicate from [Balak's mind] evil beliefs, nor was he commanded to bring the offerings.  Instead, Bil'am did so in order to approach God so that he would be reached by His communication.  The Scriptural expression concerning the offerings is "My food which is presented unto Me for offerings made by fire, for a sweet savor unto Me" (Numbers 28:2).  Far be it that they should have no other purpose and intention except the elimination of idolatrous opinions from the minds of fools.

It is far more fitting to accept the reason for the offerings which scholars say, namely, that since man's needs are accomplished through thought, speech and action, therefore God commanded that when man sins and brings an offering, he should lay his hands upon it in contrast to the [evil] deed [committed].  He should confess his sin verbally in contrast to his [evil] speech, and he should burn the innards and the kidneys [of the offering] in fire because they are the instrument of thought and desire in the human being.  He should burn the legs [of the offering] since they correspond to the hands and feet of a person, which do all his work.  He should sprinkle the blood upon the altar, which is analogous to the blood in his body.  All these acts are performed in order that when they are done, a person should realize that he has sinned against his God with his body and his soul, and that his blood should really be spilled and his body burned, were it not for the loving-kindness of the Creator, who took from him a substitute and a ransom, namely this offering, so that its blood should be in place of his blood, its life in place of his life, and that the chief limbs of the offering should be in place of the chief parts of his body.  The portions [given from the sin-offering to the priests], are in order to support the teachers of the Torah, so that they pray on his behalf.  The reason for the daily public offering is that it is impossible for the public [as a whole] to continually avoid sin.  Now these are words which are worthy of being accepted, appealing to the heart as do words of Aggada.

By way of truth, there is a hidden secret contained in the offerings… (Ramban, Vayikra 1:9, s.v.  ola)


            The Ramban is consistent with his own position, and he explains that sacrifices – like the Mishkan itself – are le-khatchila; this is the way that God gave man to draw near to Him and to atone for his misdeeds.


            The Meshekh Chokhma offers an interesting "compromise" between the Rambam and the Ramban (in his introduction to the book of Vayikra):


The early sages disagreed about the reason for the sacrifices.  The Rambam said that it is merely to distance man from idolatry, whereas the Ramban and his company said that it is to draw near all the forces in the world, this being something electric-spiritual.  Through his actions, the priest does elevated things in different worlds.  Perhaps we should decide in the middle that sacrifices offered on a bama were only to distance idolatry from the hearts of the people of Israel, and therefore He commanded that they offer them for the sake of heaven.  This is not the case regarding the sacrifices in the Temple – they were certainly to draw the worlds near and to join lovers.  The source for this is what we learned in the mishna at the beginning of chapter Parat Chatat (Zevachim 113a): "There is no sweet savor on a minor bama." We see from here that the sacrifices offered on a bama were not for sweet savor.  And with this we can understand what Rav Natan said (Nedarim 22a): "One who takes a vow is regarded as if he built a bama (and one who fulfills it is regarded as if he offered a sacrifice on it)." That is, a bama is intended to fence himself off from idolatry.  But during the time that the Temple stands he does evil by fencing himself off from idolatry through the building of a bama.  [For] surely God is in His holy sanctuary and he can offer a sacrifice in the Temple! Similarly, one who takes a vow wishes to fence himself off by way of a vow, but he adds iniquity, because the Torah already fenced him off with its illuminating prohibitions.




In the lecture that closed the discussion of the functions of the Mikdash (lecture 9), we discussed the disagreement between the Rambam and the Ramban regarding the main purpose of the Mishkan.  Both agree that the Mikdash serves two purposes – a house for God and a place for man to serve Him – but they disagree about which of the two is the primary purpose.  The Ramban (Shemot 25:1; see also what he says in Devarim 10:1) emphasizes the resting of the Shekhina and God's speaking with man, while the Rambam (Sefer Ha-mitzvot, positive precept 20; Hilkhot Bet Ha-bechira 1:1) asserts that the main objective of the Mikdash is the sacrificial service and man's service of God in general.


It is possible – and we say this here as a conjecture – that the disagreement is connected to the way we understand the Mishkan in general.  The Ramban's position - that the primary purpose of the Mishkan was the resting of the Shekhina, Divine speech, and revelation to man - is consistent with his own position that the Mishkan was le-khatchila.  The Rambam, on the other hand, seems to maintain that the Mishkan was only be-di'eved, for that is his attitude toward the sacrifices, which according to him is the essence of the Mishkan.


In his comments on the timing of the commandment regarding the construction of the Mishkan and the selection of those who served in the Mishkan, and in his understanding of the world of sacrifices and the main objective of the Mishkan the Ramban presents a systematic and consistent position that the "Mishkan was le-khatchila." On the other side, Rashi, the Seforno, and the Rambam all emphasize different aspects of the be-di'eved nature of the Mishkan.




Shabbat is mentioned twice in connection with the building of the Mishkan[5] - in the command and in the execution.  In the context of the command, Shabbat is mentioned at the end (Shemot 31:12-17), whereas in the execution it appears at the beginning as an introduction (ibid. 35:2-3).  Many explanations have been offered to explain this difference.  Here I shall mention only two of them, which connect it to the matter under discussion.[6]




It is possible that the construction of the Mishkan is not the same as acts preliminary to the [Temple] service, which do not set Shabbat aside, because the preliminary acts can be performed on Friday, which is not true about the [building of the] Mishkan, which cannot be done without Shabbat.  I therefore might have said that it sets Shabbat aside.  And it is possible that regarding the [Temple] service the Shabbat [prohibitions] are outright permitted, because the glory rests in the Mishkan and the Shekhina is found there, and Shabbat is testimony to all of mankind that God created the world ex nihilo, and the [Temple] service teaches about God's providence and how He maintains the world at every moment through his will and He causes the whole world to exist and renews it at every moment through His will, as it is stated: "To the One Who made great lights" (Tehillim 136:7), from which they taught in the prayer: "In His goodness He renews the creation every day, constantly." And it is God's habitation, as Shlomo said: "I have surely built you a house to live in" (I Melakhim 8:13).  Therefore, even the preliminary acts like the roasting and beating of the omer and the baking of shetei ha-lechem [according to the opinion that it becomes disqualified overnight and that it becomes consecrated in the oven] set Shabbat aside.  But the construction of the Mishkan and the Mikdash do not set Shabbat aside, because as long as the Mikdash has not yet been built, the Shekhina does not rest upon Israel, and it is through the Mishkan and the Mikdash that the Shekhina rests upon Israel. 

But before the people of Israel made the [golden] calf, surely it had been stipulated "In all places where I cause My name to be pronounced, I will come to you, and I will bless you" (Shemot 20:21), and the Shekhina rested upon Israel even without the Mishkan.  [Then] it was merely a place designated for [Divine] service and the resting of the Shekhina, but not in such a way that [only] through it would they merit to see God's glory, because the people of Israel themselves were God's habitation, and "They are the sanctuary of the Lord" (Yirmiyahu 7:4).[7] At that time, the construction of the Mishkan was like one of the requirements for the service after the building of the Mishkan which followed the [sin of the golden] calf.  Since the Shekhina and God's glory rested on the people of Israel before the building of the Mishkan, the service and everything necessary for it, even the building of the Mishkan, set Shabbat aside.  Therefore, the Mishkan is mentioned before Shabbat.  But after they sinned with the [golden] calf, they were only fit for the glory of God through the Mishkan.  Hence, [Shabbat] was not set aside by the building of the Mishkan, [and] Shabbat was therefore mentioned first, as Rashi explains: "He mentioned to them the prohibition in reference to Shabbat before the command about the building of the Mishkan in order to intimate that it does not set aide Shabbat." (Meshekh Chokhma to Shemot 35:1-2)


The Meshekh Chokhma suggests that the change in order regarding the mitzva of Shabbat reflects a halakhic difference: Prior to the sin of the golden calf, the building of the Mishkan set aside Shabbat, and the command to build the Mishkan was therefore given before the mitzva of Shabbat.  After Israel sinned, building the Mishkan no longer set aside Shabbat, and the mitzva of Shabbat therefore precedes the building of the Mishkan.  He understands that the sin of the golden calf changed the nature of the Shekhina's resting in Israel and the essence of the Mishkan.  Prior to the sin, the people of Israel themselves served as God's resting place (see his comments cited in lecture no.  20).  Under such circumstances the building of the Mishkan was regarded as something needed for the Divine service and it therefore set Shabbat aside.  After Israel sinned, the Mishkan became a condition for the resting of the Shekhina, and its construction therefore no longer set Shabbat aside; Shabbat is only set aside after the Shekhina has found its resting place.


The Meshekh Chokhma sees an essential difference between the status of the Mishkan before the sin and its status after the sin.  Before the sin, the Mishkan was designated for Divine service and the resting of the Shekhina, but the resting of the Shekhina did not depend on the Mishkan because the people of Israel themselves served as God's resting place.  In the wake of the sin, however, the resting of the Shekhina became constricted; from now on, the Mishkan was not only the place set aside for the resting of the Shekhina, but a condition for it.




This is what the Gaon of Vilna says in Shir Ha-shirim (end of chap. 1): A woman is useful for two things: first, for cohabitation; and second, to oversee her household, the things that are essential for the house.  Therefore, Rabbi Yose said: I never called my wife Ishti (Shabbat 118b, Gittin 52a), which is an indecent term that denotes cohabitation, but rather Bayit, which denotes the second thing, that she is the mistress of the house.  And this is the very difference between the Mishkan and the Mikdash.  For in the Mikdash it was like a woman running her house, and the union was not evident, which was not the case in the Mishkan, where the union was evident.  And therefore the Temples were called a house.  Similarly, it is written: "And you shall no longer call me Ba'ali" (Hoshe'a 2:19), in the sense of ba'al ha-bayit, master of the house, but rather Ishi, when the marital bond will be evident to all, when they will cleave to the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written: "When I should find you outside, I would kiss you; and none would scorn me" (Shir Ha-shirim 8:1), because of the great union.  Thus the Vilna Gaon.

The idea of the Mishkan was certainly as described above, and as the Vilna Gaon wrote.  But the sin of the [golden] calf brought about that the Mishkan itself alluded to the lower level, as was the case with the first and second Temples, as will be explained.  Therefore the order was reversed, for in the command issued by the Holy One, blessed be He, to Moshe concerning the building of the Mishkan, things are arranged as befits a state of perfect repair.  And therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, put the command before Shabbat, and He explained the "mystery of Shabbat"… But Moshe, when he spoke to Israel, did not reveal to them the inner aspect, because it became clear through the sin of the [golden] calf that they were not yet fit for the revelation of the mystery.  And therefore he first gave them the portion dealing with Shabbat in its external form, for this was a warning that they should not err and come to undesirable thoughts.  He also revealed to them the external aspect of the Mishkan, as will be explained.

According to this, in both of them, both Shabbat and the Mishkan, there are two aspects, an inner aspect and an outer aspect.  But the difference between them is that in the Mishkan the aspect of union and bringing down the bounty and the supernal lights is more striking and known.  This is to the point that Shlomo had to conceal the matter and emphasize in his words the outer aspect.  This is not the case with Shabbat, where the matter is reversed, and the outer aspect is evident to all, whereas the inner aspect is the mystery.  (Derashot Bet Yishai II, Ma'amar Ha-Shabbat Ve-Ha-Mishkan, pp. 356-358)[8]


            Incidental to his treatment of the issue of Shabbat and the Mishkan, Rav Fischer notes the difference between the status of the Mishkan before the sin of the golden calf and its status following that sin.  Prior to the sin, Israel's devotion to God revealed itself in the Mishkan, whereas following the sin, the Mishkan alluded also to the lower level, the level that later also characterized the Mikdash – the Divine service.  This is the meaning of the location of Shabbat in relation to the Mishkan.  This is based on the assumption that both Shabbat and the Mishkan have outer and inner dimensions, and the levels of the revelation depend on the state of the connection between Israel and God.




To conclude the discussion, I wish to propose that the two possibilities suggested above – the Mishkan as le-khatchila and the Mishkan as be-di'eved – reflect two different manners of revelation.


As we know, God reveals Himself in the world through different names and attributes, through the name of Elokim which reflects nature – in the words of Chazal, the attribute of Justice - and through the Tetragrammaton, which expresses revelation – the attribute of Mercy.  These two manners of revelation are clearly reflected in the first three chapters of the book of Bereishit.


In chapter 1, God reveals Himself through the attribute of Justice.  This revelation is through the very act of creation; after He sets the laws of nature and cerates man in His image so that he should resemble the Creator in his actions, God disappears from the world.  In this chapter, man stands at the center of creation, and his mission is to serve God through the Divine image in him.  According to this trait, the Mishkan was le-khatchila: God's presence in the world depends upon man, who must create the precise conditions (measurements, materials, and the like) that allow for the resting of the Shekhina, as commanded by God.  This presence also takes into account man's finite nature, and it is therefore only the despicable actions of man that will cause the Shekhina to remove itself from the Mishkan.


In chapters 2-3, in contrast, God reveals Himself through the attribute of Mercy.  He is present in the world even after He finishes creating it – "walking in the garden in the breeze of the day" (Bereishit 3:8) – and He speaks to man in a direct and regular manner.  This situation, in which God is present in all places and at all times, necessitates the total effacement of man in the presence of God and dictates very stringent demands; even a trivial sin leads to man's expulsion from the Garden of Eden.  According to this attribute, the Mishkan is be-di'eved, for it constricts the universal presence and revelation of God to a single place.


Put differently, the difference between the two perspectives relates to the question of who is running the world.  In chapter 1, it is man, as it were, the crown of creation, to whose command all of creation is subjected: "Be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it.  And have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Bereishit 1:28).  This world is hidden; God is "concealed" in the laws of nature that He established, and man's connection to Him expresses itself primarily in his imitating His ways through the Divine image implanted within him.  When man is the master, building the Mikdash is necessary in order to connect humanity and the entire world to the Creator, and this is absolutely le-khatchila.


In chapters 2-3, on the other hand, God is the master.  Man is merely a guest in God's world, and as a guest he must conduct himself according to his host's desires.  In such a world, it is precisely the fact that "the man is become like one of us, knowing good and evil" (Bereishit 3:22) – something that on the face of it is similar to the image of God mentioned in chapter 1 – that is the cause of his expulsion from the garden, "lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever" (ibid.).  When man is only a guest, then the world is God's resting place, "the entire world is filled with His glory" (Yeshayahu 6:3) and "no place is empty of Him" (Tikkunei ha-Zohar 91b, 122b), and the constriction of the resting of the Shekhina and the Divine service to a Mishkan located in one place and to a single priestly family is entirely be-di'eved.


The two perspectives do, of course, complement each other.  Man is at one and the same time master of the world and God's guest therein, "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you" (Bereishit 23:4); on the other hand, there is an aspect of concealment in God's revelation in the laws of nature.  The revelation of God's kingship depends upon man, and also on an aspect of total revelation in all of creation.  The world's existence depends on reaching a balance between these aspects, both on the part of God, as it were, and, of course, on the part of man.


In light of this, I wish to propose that while undoubtedly there is a contradiction between the Mishkan being le-khatchila and the Mishkan being be-di'eved, the two sides also complement each other.


On the one hand, the command to build the Mishkan expresses God's desire to rest in the world and be present in it, which corresponds to the objective that reveals itself in the very act of creation, continues in the Garden of Eden, and reaches its climax in the purposes that God assigned to Israel during the exodus from Egypt, the revelation at Mount Sinai, and the command to build the Mishkan.  The Mishkan is the end of the path paved from the beginning of creation, and it is possible that in this sense it was meant to serve the entire world, including the "erev rav."


On the other hand, the resting of the Shekhina in the world also takes human nature into consideration, this being evident in the connection between the Mishkan and the sin involving the golden calf.  According to this perspective, the Divine revelation suits itself to human weakness, to the need for tangible modes of service and a place of pardon, forgiveness and atonement, as is expressed by the fact that the command regarding the Mishkan was issued specifically on Yom Kippur.




To conclude the discussion of the issue "Mishkan – Le-khatchila or Be-di'eved," it must be noted that this is a very broad topic,[9] and it was not my goal to encompass it entirely.  I merely wished to present the main elements and point to the existence of the two approaches in various aspects of the Mishkan.


In the next lecture, I will deal with various aspects of the dedication of the Mishkan.


(Translated by David Strauss)

[1] The term milui yadayim is generally used in Scripture to denote dedication for service and entry into a certain role.  See Shemot 29:9, 35; Bamidbar 3:3; Yechezkel 43:26; I Divrei Ha-yamim 13:9; ibid. 29:31.

[2] The Seforno does not address the issue of the order of the various stages of selection – the selection of the tribe of Levi and the selection of Aharon and his sons – and it is not clear that he agrees on this point with Rashi.  Without a doubt, however, Rashi's position on the issue would fit in well with the Seforno's approach.

[3] In the continuation, he suggests another explanation: "Or else it means that the tribe of Levi was set aside at that time so that the priests should come from them, for they too carry the ark… and they will serve there and bless in His name." On the relationship between the priests and the Levites, see Rav Mordechai Sabbato, "Ha-Kohanim Ha-Leviyim U-Ma'asei Ha-Egel," Megadim 2, pp.  23-32.

[4] At the end of Hilkhot Me'ila (8:8), however, he writes: "The chukim are those commandments whose reasons are not known… All the sacrifices fall into the category of chukim.  The Sages said that the world exists for the sake of the sacrificial service." This is not the Rambam's position in his Moreh Nevukhim.

[5] The relationship between Shabbat and the Mishkan and the Mikdash is a broad topic, which requires a separate lecture.  We already alluded to the main elements in lecture no.  8, II, 2, and note 6 there.

[6] See also Bet ha-Levi on the Torah, beginning of Ki-Tisa (s.v. akh et shabtotai."

[7] See also Meshekh Chokhma to Shemot 19:12, cited in lecture no.  20.

[8] I have cited here only the essence of Rav Fischer's words.  It is recommended that one see his entire discussion of the issue. 

[9] Among other things, a precise comparison should be made between God's command to Moshe to build the Mishkan, on the one hand, and Moshe's command to the people of Israel and the actual execution, on the other.  The possibility that the differences stem from the sin of the golden calf that takes place in the interim should be considered.  One of the better known differences is that in the command the ark and other vessels appear before the Mishkan, whereas the execution is performed in the reverse order.  It is possible that prior to the sin it would have been possible to start from the inside, from the main thing, and only then build the external framework, whereas after the sin, it was necessary to first build the framework, and only then start on its contents.  (It goes without saying that this proposal does not negate other explanations – conceptual or practical – of the command to Moshe and Betzalel's execution [see Rashi, Shemot 38:22, s.v.  u-Betzalel, based on Berakhot 55a]). 

Other issues that should be examined are the status of the tent that Moshe set up outside the camp (Shemot 33:7-11) and its connection to the Mishkan (an issue which was partially addressed in the previous lecture), the difference between the covenant in Parashat Mishpatim and the covenant in Parashat Ki-Tisa, and others.

It should also be emphasized that my discussion relates solely to the Mishkan, and that I did not touch at all upon the various Temples (Shlomo's Temple, the second Temple, and Yechezkel's Temple).  This issue requires a separate discussion, and as it was noted in previous lectures, it is possible that the discussion of le-khatchila/be-di'eved relates exclusively to the temporary Mishkan, but not to the permanent Mikdash.