Shiur #25: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina(Part XIII) - The Dedication of the Mishkan (Part I)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mikdash
Yeshivat Har Etzion


 

 

Shiur #25: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina

(Part XIII)

The Dedication of the Mishkan (Part I)

 

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

I.          THE THREE ACCOUNTS OF THE DEDICATION OF THE MISHKAN

 

The dedication of the Mishkan is described in three different books: in chap.  40 of the book of Shemot, in chaps.  8-9 of the book of Vayikra, and in chap. 7 of the book of Bamidbar.  Why is this event, as important as it was, described in three different accounts?

 

When we carefully examine the three records, appearing in different books and written in different styles, we see that they emphasize different and complementary aspects of the dedication of the Mishkan, reflecting the different functions of the Mishkan (as was discussed at length in lectures 5-9).I In the book of Shemot, the Mishkan was dedicated as the site of the resting of the Shekhina; in the book of Vayikra as the site of man's service of God, and especially the sacrificial service; and in the book of Bamidbar as the site that connects Israel to their Father in heaven.  Thus, the dedication of the Mishkan faithfully reflects all of the purposes of the Mishkan.

 

 

1)         THE DEDICATION OF THE MISHKAN IN THE BOOK OF SHEMOT (CHAP. 40)

 

At this dedication, there is no mention of the priests, or even of the people.  The central figure here is Moshe, who is commanded at the beginning of the chapter: "On the first day of the first month shall you set up the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting" (Shemot 40:2).  After setting up the Mishkan, Moshe brings in the vessels: first, the ark of testimony, then the rest of the vessels, and only afterwards the courtyard and its vessels – the altar and the laver.  While it is true that Moshe is commanded here about the anointing of Aharon and his sons and their consecration for the priesthood, they are not mentioned in the execution of the command, and the account of their anointing only appears in the book of Vayikra.  The dedication of the burnt-offering altar, which is so prominently described in Vayikra, is mentioned here in a single verse.

 

The account in the book of Shemot reaches its climax with the resting of the Shekhina in the Mishkan: "Then a cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle" (v. 34).  Immediately afterwards it is stated: "And Moshe was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting" (v.  35) – implying that this is what had been expected; the purpose of the Mishkan from this perspective was God's meeting with Moshe and speaking to him from upon the ark, from between the two keruvim (Shemot 25:22), as a direct continuation of the revelation at Mount Sinai (as was discussed at length in lectures 9 and 22).[1]

 

2)         THE DEDICATION OF THE MISHKAN IN THE BOOK OF VAYIKRA (CHAPS. 8-9)

 

In this account, there is no mention of the ark whatsoever.  Rather, the focus is upon Aharon the priest (and his sons) and the altar.  This account is primarily comprised of the dedication of the altar and of the priests during the seven days of consecration, as it is stated: "Seven days you shall make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it" (Shemot 29:37) – the climax of which was reached on the eighth day, when Aharon and his sons began to serve in the priesthood and the Shekhina revealed itself to the entire people on the altar in a manner that also parallels the revelation at Mount Sinai:

 

And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.  (Shemot 24:17)

 

And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which, when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.  (Vayikra 9:24)

 

            This dedication is directed, then, at the Mishkan's purpose as serving as the site of the sacrificial service.

 

            I shall expand upon the seven days of consecration and the eighth day in the next lecture.

 

3)         THE DEDICATION OF THE MISHKAN IN THE BOOK OF BAMIDBAR (CHAP. 7).

 

What stands out in this account of the dedication is the connection between the Mishkan and the entire people of Israel.  This dedication takes place after the Mishkan is set up, anointed and sanctified.  This account appears after a census is taken of Israel and after the camp is organized around the Mishkan.  The main characters in this account are the princes of Israel, the representatives of the people, and it focuses on the sacrifices that they brought on their own initiative to dedicate the altar on the day of its anointing and over the next twelve days, each prince on his day:

 

And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had finished setting up the tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it, and all its instruments, both the altar and all its vessels, and had anointed them, and sanctified them that the princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, who were the princes of the tribes, and were over them that were numbered, offered.  And they brought their offering before the Lord, six covered wagons, and twelve oxen; a wagon for every two of the princes, and for each one an ox: and they brought them before the tabernacle.  And the Lord spoke to Moshe, saying, "Take it of them, that they may be to do the service of the Tent of Meeting; and you shall give them to the Levites, to every man according to his service…"

And the princes offered for dedicating of the altar in the day that it was anointed and the princes offered their offering before the altar.  And the Lord said to Moshe, "They shall offer their offering, each prince on his day, for the dedicating of the altar." (Bamidbar 7:1-5, 10-11)

 

            The dedication of the Mishkan through the offerings of the senior representatives of the twelve tribes highlights the relationship of the tribes and the entire people to the Mishkan and expresses the unmediated connection between Israel and the Mishkan.

 

            Thus, with the participation of the people of Israel, the objective of the Mishkan was reached, and the three aspects which revealed themselves in the three accounts of the dedication of the Mishkan were completed.  These three aspects have been defined as follows: the revelation of God as a ruler in His sanctuary, in the book of Shemot; as a king who receives offerings from his servants, in the book of Vayikra; and as a leader at the head of his camp in the book of Bamidbar.

 

            This last dedication closes with a description of the meeting between Moshe and God from upon the ark, from between the two keruvim:

 

And when Moshe was gone into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, then he heard the voice speaking to him from off the covering that was upon the ark of Testimony, from between the two keruvim; and it spoke to him.  (Bamidbar 7:89)

 

            This account, which implies that there was a direct connection between the meeting with Moshe and the dedication of the princes, appears to be a continuation of what was stated at the end of the book of Shemot.  There, Moshe was not able to enter owing to the glory of God that filled the Mishkan; here, however, Moshe enters and hears the voice speaking to him.  In this sense, the book of Bamidbar combines the two aspects: the dedication of the altar by the princes and the revelation of the Shekhina to Moshe through the words uttered from between the two keruvim.

 

II.        THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE DEDICATION OF THE MISHKAN

 

In the first part of this lecture, I showed the different and complementary objectives that are reflected in the various accounts of the dedication of the Mishkan.  In this part, I wish to examine the chronology of these three accounts and its significance.

 

Only in the book of Shemot is an explicit date given:

 

On the first day of the first month shall you set up the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting… And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was erected.  (Shemot 40:2, 17)

 

            In the other accounts, there are no precise dates.  The command regarding the seven days of consecration (Shemot 29), the description of their execution (Vayikra 9), and the events that transpired on the eighth day (ibid. 10) are not dated.  In Bamidbar as well it is merely stated that the princes began to offer on the day that the Mishkan was set up and anointed (Bamidbar 7:1-2, 10), but it does say which day this was.[2] On the issue of the chronological order of the dedication we find a fundamental disagreement between the Rishonim:[3]

 

1)         THE POSITION OF THE IBN EZRA

 

The Ibn Ezra expresses his position in his long commentary to Shemot 40:2:

 

According to the plain understanding, the first day of the first month marked the beginning of the setting up of the Mishkan… And on this day Moshe anointed the Mishkan and all its vessels… And the congregation assembled at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, and he washed Aharon and his sons with water, and he put the garments on Aharon… and he also put the garments on his sons and they were anointed, and he brought the bullock… and this he did for the seven days of consecration, and thus it is written: "And you shall offer every day a bullock for a sin offering" (Shemot 29:36) – each day… Then the princes began to offer offerings for the sanctification of the altar… And the dedication of the altar was completed after the nineteenth day of the first month.

 

            At the beginning of his comment, the Ibn Ezra explicitly notes the source of his position:

 

Now we have found in the Sifrei that Mishael and Eltzafan were those who "were defiled by the dead body" (Bamidbar 9:6), and the eighth day of consecration was the eighth of the month.

 

            The Ibn Ezra is referring here to the view of Rabbi Akiva in the Sifrei (Beha'alotekha) that the men "who were defiled by the dead body" (Bamidbar 9:6) – "were Mishael and Eltzafan, who defiled themselves [through contact] with Nadav and Avihu… the seventh day [of their ritual impurity] falling out on the day before Pesach" (Sifrei Bamidbar, 68).[4] It turns out, then, that the chronology was as follows: The Mishkan was set up on the first of Nisan (as is explicitly stated in Shemot 40); the seven days of consecration fell out on the 1st to the 7th of Nisan (Shemot 29 and Vayikra 8); the eighth day was on the 8th of Nisan (Vayikra 9); and from the 8th to the 19th the princes offered their sacrifices (Bamidbar 7).

 

            According to the Ibn Ezra, the dedication of the Mishkan has two focal points.  The first one was the 1st of Nisan; on that day, the Shekhina rested in a cloud upon the Tent of Meeting and the glory of God filled the Mishkan – a phenomenon that parallels in its style and content the revelation at Mount Sinai,[5] and whose primary element was the revelation to Moshe and God's calling to him at the beginning of the book of Vayikra.  The second focal point was the 8th of Nisan, when the Shekhina revealed itself on the burnt-offering altar in the fire that consumed the sacrifices before the eyes of the people of Israel.  The differences between the two are clear: the first revelation was in a cloud, the second in a fire; the first was on the Mishkan as a whole, the second on the altar; the first was to Moshe, the second was before the eyes of the entire nation.

 

According to this view, the resting of the Shekhina from above preceded man's service of God and was its cause; the dedication of the Mishkan began with the resting of God's Shekhina in a cloud upon the Mishkan and the revelation to Moshe.  Here we come to an intermediate stage – the anointing of Aharon and his sons, and their sanctification together with the altar through the sacrifices brought during the seven days of consecration.  Following these seven days, on the eighth day, there was a second revelation – a revelation in fire on the outer altar before the eyes of the entire people – with the dedication of the priests for their service and the beginning of the dedication of the altar with the sacrifices brought by the princes (who represented the entire people).

 

Rav Shama (in the article mentioned in note 3) notes two main difficulties in the Ibn Ezra's position:

 

1) Scripture implies that there is a connection between what is recorded in Shemot 40 and the beginning of the dedication of the altar by the princes.  In Shemot 40:2, it says: "On the first day of the first month shall you set up the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting," and regarding the execution of that command, it says: "And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was erected.  And Moshe erected the tabernacle" (ibid. vv. 17-18).  And in Bamidbar 7:1-2, it says: "And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had finished setting up the tabernacle… that the princes of Israel offered…."[6] It turns out, then, that the dedication of the princes began on the first of Nisan, and not on the eighth of the month as argued by the Ibn Ezra.

 

2) According to the Ibn Ezra, there were two climactic points in the dedication of the Mishkan: the first on the first of Nisan and the second on the eighth of the month.  What was the purpose of two revelations of the Shekhina? Moreover, the style of the account at the end of Shemot implies a conclusion and a climax.  It seems that it was owing to these difficulties that Chazal explained these matters in a different manner.

 

2)         THE POSITION OF RASHI AND THE RAMBAN

 

While the Ibn Ezra's position is based on the view of Rabbi Akiva, Rashi (Vayikra 8:2; 9:1; Bamidbar 7:1, 12) and the Ramban (Shemot 40:2, 17; Bamidbar 7:1) rely on the prevailing view in Chazal, which will be presented here from the Sifrei on Parashat Naso:[7]

 

"And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had finished setting up the tabernacle." Scripture teaches that on each of the seven days of consecration Moshe would set up the Mishkan, and each day he would anoint it, and take it apart, and on this day he set it up, anointed it, and did not take it apart… We learn from this that on the 23rd of Adar, Aharon and his sons and the Mishkan and its vessels began to be anointed, on the 1st of the month [of Nisan] the Mishkan was set up… on that very day, the Shekhina rested in the house, as it is stated: "And Moshe was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting" (Shemot 40:35).  On that very day, the princes offered their sacrifices, as it is stated: "And he that offered his offering on the first day" (Bamidbar 9:12)… On that very day the fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifices, as it is stated: "And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat" (Vayikra 9:24).  (Sifrei Bamidbar, 44).

 

            In other words, the setting up of the Mishkan began on the 23rd of Adar; from that day until the 1st of Adar were the seven days of consecration, during which time Moshe set up and took apart the Mishkan each day.  The eighth day fell out on the 1st of Nisan, and on that day the Mishkan was set up in permanent fashion, and there were two revelations: the resting of the Shekhina in a cloud on the Tent of Meeting with the glory of God filling the Mishkan, and the resting of the Shekhina in a fire upon the altar before the eyes of all of Israel.  Over the course of the twelve days from the 1st of Nisan to the 12th of the month, the tribal princes dedicated the altar with their sacrifices.  According to this understanding, the dedication of the Mishkan had only one focal point and climax, which found expression in it two primary dimensions: the 1st of Adar, on which day the Shekhina rested at the same time upon the Mishkan and upon the altar.

 

            This position raises even more serious difficulties than those raised by the view of Rabbi Akiva and the Ibn Ezra.  I shall present these difficulties as they were formulated by Rav Samet (in his study cited in note 3, pp. 405-406). 

 

The most fundamental question that this position must contend with is as follows: Surely Moshe was commanded to set up the Mishkan "on the first day of the first month" (Shemot 40:2) – and during the seven days of consecration, which according to this view preceded this date, the Mishkan is described as already standing, and Moshe offers various different sacrifices on the altar! Those who maintain this position would answer that the Mishkan had already been set up on the 23rd of Adar, but it was taken apart each day of the seven days of consecration, and it was only on the eighth day that it was set up not to be taken apart again on that day.  It is this setting up of the Mishkan that is referred to in Shemot 40:2.  But this itself is problematic, for there is not the slightest hint in the passages that describe what took place during the seven days of consecration that the Mishkan was taken apart each day – neither in the command in Shemot 29 nor in the account of the execution in Vayikra 8. 

And furthermore, not only is there no hint to the setting up and taking apart of the Mishkan during the seven days of consecration, but the verses in Vayikra 8 appear to explicitly contradict this possibility.  For Moshe says to Aharon and his sons on the first day of consecration as follows:

"And you shall not go out of the door of the Tent of Meeting for seven days, until the days of your consecration be at an end… And you shall abide at the door of the Tent of Meeting day and night for seven days" (Vayikra 8:33-35).

How would it have possible to fulfill this command if the Tent of Meeting were taken apart, even if it were taken apart for only a short time each day? Surely abiding there "day and night" for "seven days" means abiding there for seven days without interruption.  These questions are discussed by the early commentators, but satisfying answers according to the plain sense of the text are not provided.[8]

 

            Rav Samet, therefore, maintains that the prevalent view of Chazal does not reflect the plain sense of Scripture.  He then tries to explain what brought Chazal to this understanding (ibid. p. 407; emphasis mine):

 

What brought to such an understanding that is so far from the plain sense of Scripture? It seems that the proponents of this position wanted to match the event described in Vayikra 9 – the revelation of God's glory before the eyes of the entire people – with the important date explicitly mentioned in Shemot: Rosh Chodesh Nisan.  For according to the plain sense of Scripture, it turns out that this took place on a date void of meaning (the 8th of Nisan), a date that isn't even mentioned in the text.  A baraita brought in Shabbat 87 states as follows:

A Tanna taught: That day [Rosh Chodesh Nisan] took ten crowns.  1) It was the first of the Creation, 2) the first for the princes, 3) the first for the priesthood, 4) the first for [public] sacrifice, 5) the first for the fall of fire [from Heaven], 6) the first for the eating of sacred food, 7) the first for the dwelling of the Shekhina in Israel, 8) the first for the [priestly] blessing of Israel, 9) the first for the prohibition of the high places, [and] 10) the first of months.

According to the plain sense of Scripture, however, Rosh Chodesh Nisan loses most of these crowns, and is left with only the first, the seventh and the tenth.

 

            To Rav Samet's reasonable arguments, it might be added that it is possible that the proponents of this position were primarily driven by reservations regarding the separation proposed by Rabbi Akiva (and the Ibn Ezra in his wake) between the resting of the Shekhina in a cloud upon the entire Mishkan and the dedication of the altar (which gives expression to man's service of God), and by the understanding that the crowns of the sacrificial service, the descent of the fire and the resting of the Shekhina, were all given at the same time.[9]

 

3)         THE POSITION OF THE ABRAVANEL

 

The two positions discussed thus far are undoubtedly the two main positions on this issue.  Their common denominator is that both of them, each in its own way, resort to the rule that "there is no chronological order to the events in the Torah." Before concluding, I wish to bring the interesting explanation of the Abravanel to Bamidbar 7, who explains the various accounts according to the order that they appear in Scripture.  According to this, the seven days of consecration began on the day of the setting up of the Mishkan on the 1st of Nisan, but the sacrifices of the princes were only brought in the month of Iyar – after the census of the people had been completed:

 

After the Mishkan was set up in the first month, there immediately began the days of the consecration of Aharon and his sons.  During the seven days they became consecrated and they offered their sacrifices, and on the eighth day they offered the sacrifice of the people.  The rest of that fist month Moshe occupied himself with anointing the Mishkan and its vessels and the altar and its vessels and the rest of the things required for the Mikdash.

And on the first day of the second month God commanded Moshe to count the people, and mention is made of the names of the princes of each and every tribe at the time of the census.  After the people were counted to their tribes, and so too the Levites, and the princes were appointed, these princes thought that it would be proper for them to begin to offer sacrifices before all the other individuals in Israel.  And for this reason their sacrifices are called "the dedication of the altar." Not because their sacrifices were the first to be offered there, not from the priests and not from the congregation of the people of Israel.  Inasmuch as individuals would in the future offer their sacrifices on God's altar, since they were princes, they should offer [their sacrifices] before any other individual in Israel offers his sacrifice, and they should dedicate the altar with the sacrifices of individuals… Therefore, the dedication of the altar and the sacrifices of the princes followed the census that was taken of the people and relates to it.

 

In addition to understanding the events according to the order in which they appear in Scripture, this explanation emphasizes the inner connection between the census of Israel and the dedication of the altar, and the fact that this dedication represents the connection of each and every member of Israel to the sacrificial service in the Mishkan.

 

***

 

In this lecture, I began to analyze the dedication of the Mishkan, concentrating on the chronology and significance of the various accounts of this event.  In the next lecture, I will discuss the sacrifices that were brought at the dedication of the Mishkan: the sacrifices of the seven days of consecration, the sacrifices brought on the eighth day, and the sacrifices brought by the princes of Israel.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)



[1] According to the Ibn Ezra and the Ramban, God immediately spoke to Moshe, as it is stated at the beginning of the book of Vayikra (1:1): "And the Lord called to Moshe, and spoke to him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying…"

[2] The Ibn Ezra (Bamidbar 7:48) records a disagreement whether the twelve days were consecutive and included Shabbat, or perhaps the princes did not offer sacrifices on Shabbat, in which case the twelve days were not consecutive.

[3] The disagreement regarding the chronology of the setting up and dedication of the Mishkan has been discussed by Rav Elchanan Samet in his study of Parashot Vayakhel-Pekudei, in: Iyunim Be-Parashot Ha-Shavua, 2nd series, Jerusalem 5764, pp. 405-408; and Rav Avraham Shama, "Shetei Megamot Be-Chanukat Ha-Mishkan Ve-Hishtakfutan Be-Torat Ha-Korbanot," Megadim 2, pp. 32-44.  These two authors went off in different directions, and our analysis borrows elements from both of them. 

[4] One who examines the baraita in the Sifrei in its entirety will see that the attribution of the words "the seventh day [of their ritual impurity] falling out on the day before Pesach" to Mishael and Eltzafan – on which the chronology proposed by the Ibn Ezra is based – is not self-evident: "'And there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body' (Bamidbar 9:6).  Who were they? They were the bearers of Yosef's coffin; these are the words of Rabbi Yishmael.  Rabbi Akiva says: They were Mishael and Eltzafan, who defiled themselves [through contact] with Nadav and Avihu.  Rabbi Yitzchak said: This is not necessary, [for] if they were the bearers of Yosef's coffin, they could have purified themselves; and if they were Mishael and Eltzafan, they could have purified themselves.  Who then were they? They defiled themselves [through contact] with a mitzva-corpse, as it is stated: 'They could not keep the Passover on that day' (ibid.) – on that day they could not keep it, but they could keep it on the next day.  We see then that the seventh day [of their ritual impurity] fell out on the day before Pesach." From the wording of the baraita, one might understand that the people regarding which "the seventh day [of their ritual impurity] fell out on the day before Pesach" were the people who defiled themselves through contact with a mitzva-corpse, in accordance with the position of Rabbi Yitzchak.  This is also the implication of the baraita as it is brought in Sukka 25b.

Rav Samet (in his study [cited in note 3], in note 32) argues, however, that the words, "'they could not keep the Passover on that day' - on that day they could not keep it, but they could keep it on the next day.  We see then that the seventh day [of their ritual impurity] fell out on the day before Pesach" are appropriate "only according to the view of Rabbi Akiva, for only according to him is this derived from the wording of the verse." Rav Samet supports his argument with the words of the Tosafot to Sukka (ibid., s.v. shechal shevi'i), who read in Pesachim 90b: "Rav agrees with Rabbi Akiva, who said they were Mishael and Eltzafan, the seventh day [of their ritual impurity] falling out on the day before Pesach" – a reading which the Tosafot themselves reject (and read "Rav agrees with Rav Yitzchak," as in our printed editions), but which is supported by manuscripts brought in Dikdukei Soferim to Pesachim (ad loc.). 

[5] In lecture 9, I noted the parallel drawn by the Ramban between the details of the revelation at Mount Sinai (Shemot 24:15-18) and the details of the revelation at the dedication of the Mishkan (Shemot 40:34-35; Vayikra 1:1), the primary significance of which was that the Mishkan served as a direct continuation of the revelation at Mount Sinai (see also lecture no. 22).

[6] It should be added that the words "on the day that Moshe had finished (kelot Moshe) setting up the tabernacle" (Bamidbar 7:1) are clearly connected to the conclusion of the description of the setting up of the Mishkan in the book of Shemot: "So Moshe finished (va-yechal Moshe) the work" (Shemot 40:33).

[7] Additional sources that adopt this position are: Sifra to Parashot Tzav and Shemini (in several places); Seder Olam Rabba, chap. 7; Shabbat 86b; and elsewhere.

[8] In his footnotes, Rav Samet makes reference to the Ramban's answers to these questions (some of which were raised already by the Ibn Ezra), and points out the difficulties that they present.

[9] Rav Shama explains that the various accounts of the dedication of the Mishkan should be seen as different perspectives, which express the different objectives of the Mishkan, as I explained in the first part of this lecture.  As for the reflection of the two objectives in reality, Rav Shama inclines toward the position of the Ibn Ezra, but he does not decide the issue.  Rav Shama further develops this idea and uses it to explain two-fold account of the sacrifices in Vayikra 1-5 and 6-7.