Shiur #27: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina(Part XIII) - The Dedication of the Mishkan (Part III)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mikdash
Yeshivat Har Etzion


  

Shiur #27: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina

(Part XIII)

The Dedication of the Mishkan (Part III)

 

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

            This lecture, which will complete our discussion of the dedication of the Mishkan, will be devoted to two issues: the sacrifices brought by the tribal princes and Moshe's connection to the Mishkan.

 

I.          THE SACRIFICES OF THE TRIBAL PRINCES (BAMIDBAR 7)

 

The account of the sacrifices brought by the tribal princes, which makes up the longest chapter in the Torah, opens with the words: "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" (v. 1). The entire verse designates one point in time, namely, the day on which Moshe finished setting up the Mishkan and sanctifying the Mishkan, the altar, and all of their vessels. At that point, "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" (v.2).

 

In part I of my lectures on the dedication of the Mishkan, I dealt at length with the relationship between this account and the other two accounts of the dedication of the Mishkan, both with regard to the nature of the dedication and with regard to the chronological order. Here I wish to deal briefly with several other issues.

 

1)         THE IDENTITY OF THE PRINCES AND THE BACKGROUND OF THEIR SACRIFICES

 

Chazal interpret the words, "who were the princes of the tribes," as follows:

 

They who had been appointed over them in Egypt: "And the officers of the children of Israel, whom Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, saying, 'Wherefore have you not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today, as heretofore?'" (Shemot 5:14). (Bamidbar Rabba 13:16)

 

Chazal identify the princes with the officers, who, in the words of Nechama Leibowitz, "sacrificed themselves to the wrath of their oppressors in place of their own brothers in Egypt. Good deeds are not forgotten, but remain to bear fruit and reap reward sooner or later."[1]

 

The background to the princes' diligence regarding their sacrifices is their lethargic attitude toward the building of the Mishkan, as is described in the Midrash (ibid.):

 

"The princes of Israel offered." Why were the princes quick to sacrifice first, whereas regarding the building of the Mishkan they were lazy and only brought the shoham stones and the stones to be set in the efod at the end?[2] Because when Moshe said, "Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord" (Shemot 35:5), for the work of the Mishkan, and he did not say anything to the princes,[3] it was wrong in their eyes that he did not tell them to bring anything. They said: Let the people bring what they will bring, and whatever is missing, we will fill in. All of Israel rejoiced in the work of the Mishkan and gladly and quickly brought all [their] offerings… And in two days they brought all [their] offerings… After the second day, the princes wished to bring their offering but they were unable to do so, for Moshe had already issued a command: "And they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp saying, 'Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary'" (ibid. 36:6). And the princes were distressed that they did not merit contributing to the Mishkan. They said: Since we did not merit contributing to the Mishkan, let us give to the garments of the High Priest. This is what is written: "And the princes brought shoham stones, etc." The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Regarding My sons who were quick, it shall be written that they brought "too much" (ibid. 36:7). But regarding the princes who were lazy, He removed one letter from their name, for it is written "ve-hanesim," in a defective manner, without a yod.

Once the Mishkan was finished, they came first and quickly brought an offering. This is what is written: "And the princes of Israel offered." They said: This is the time that we should offer sacrifices with joy, for the Shekhina has rested on our handiwork… Therefore it is written: "And the princes of Israel offered" – they were consoled with respect to that which they had done at the beginning.

 

            R. S. R. Hirsch sharpened this idea in his commentary to Shemot 35:27:

 

The princes felt themselves somewhat slighted in their office by the call for gifts being made direct to the people, and accordingly held back from the offering in the expectation that the people's contribution would not be sufficient for all the work, and they would then, in all honor, step in and make up the deficit.

But they had not reckoned on the enthusiasm of the people, so that, in the end, nothing remained for them to contribute except the precious stones for the garments of the High Priest and the oil and fragrant spices for the incense and the anointing oil. That such a way of thinking was blameworthy, that, in this highest national task it was most reprehensible for them to feel that their office placed them preferably above the people and representing the people, rather than as being in the midst of the people… is indicated by the defective spelling of ha-nesi'im. In this instance, they did not show themselves as the princes of the people.

 

            And in much sharper manner, we find in Midrash ha-Gadol (ad loc., s.v. ve-ha-nesi'im hevi'u):

 

R. Shmuel said: When Moshe came to Israel and said to them: "The Holy One, blessed be He, said to me, 'Make for Me a sanctuary,'" the princes said to him: Let us make the sanctuary from our [money], and let Israel not participate. He said to them: This is not what the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded me, but rather: "Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering" (Shemot 25:2). They immediately withdrew and did not participate with the community. What is taught by the verse: "And the princes (nesi'im) brought"? That they raised themselves above Israel in the clouds. As it is stated: "He causes clouds (nesi'im) to ascend from the ends of the earth" (Tehillim 135:7) – they brought for the priestly garments, but they did not bring for the building of the Mishkan. When they saw that Israel completed all the building of the Mishkan with their own [money], they immediately stood up and contributed wagons for the Mishkan, but Moshe was unwilling to accept them until the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: "Take it of them" (Bamidbar 7:5).

R. Chinena bar Chanina said: A great miracle was performed on Moshe's behalf in the Mishkan. When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, "And they shall make Me a sanctuary" (Shemot 25:8), the princes said: Let us establish it from our own [money]. He said to them: It was said to me, "of every man" (Shemot 25:2). They immediately withdrew and said: Now you will see that you need us. When they came to the priestly garments, they needed shoham stones and stones to be set in the efod, and the community was unable to provide them. A miracle was performed, and the clouds of Glory brought him precious stones and jewels. And thus it says: "And the princes brought" – it is written nesi'im, as it is written: "He causes clouds (nesi'im) to ascend from the ends of the earth" (Tehillim 135:7)…

 

            Both of these midrashim bestow special meaning upon the word "nesi'im," understanding the term as denoting the pride with which the princes lorded over the people or the miracle that God performed so that their contribution would be unnecessary. Owing to this, Moshe did not want to accept the sacrifices that they brought on their own initiative for the dedication of the Mishkan until God favorably accepted their offering, saying, "Take it of them."

 

2)         THE SACRIFICES BROUGHT BY THE PRINCES

 

There were two parts to the princes' offering: wagons and oxen to transport the Mishkan, which were brought "before the Lord" (v. 3),[4] and sacrifices for the dedication of the altar, which were brought "before the altar" (v. 10). The first gift was meant to assist in the service of the Mishkan, that is, in the resting of the Shekhina; the second gift gave expression to the place of man and the people in the dedication of the altar, that is, man's service of God.

 

3)         THE WAGONS AND THE OXEN

 

(3) 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. (4) And the Lord spoke to Moshe, saying, (5) Take it of them, that they may be to do the service of the Tent of Meeting…

 

            The wagons that were to be used to transport the Mishkan from place to place give expression to the manner in which the princes, the tribal leaders, dealt with dynamic situations that required frequent changes (taking the Mishkan apart and putting it back together again). According to the Midrash ha-Gadol (Bamidbar 7:5, s.v. ve-hayu la-avod et avodat ohel mo'ed), the wagons were used for a very extended period of time, until the days of Nov, Giv'on, and the Mikdash in Jerusalem.

 

            The Midrash emphasizes the participation of all of the tribes in this gift:

 

"A wagon for every two of the princes" – why didn't half of them bring oxen and the other half wagons? Moshe was afraid, lest the ox of one of them die, or lest the wagon of one of them break, and then that tribe would not have a part in the Mishkan. From where do you know that God informed him that none of the oxen would die and that none of the wagons would break? Say: "That they may be to do the service of the Tent of Meeting." (Sifrei Zuta, section 6, no. 3).[5]

 

4)         THE SACRIFICES OF THE PRINCES AT THE DEDICATION OF THE ALTAR

 

1) The meaning of the lengthy description of the sacrifices of the princes: This account is famous for its detailed and seemingly superfluous repetitions:

 

(10) 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. (11) And the Lord said to Moshe, "They shall offer their offering, each prince on his day, for the dedicating of the altar."

(12) And he that offered his offering the first day was Nachshon the son of Aminadav, of the tribe of Yehuda. (13) And his offering was one silver dish, the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them were full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meal offering. (14) One spoon of ten shekels of gold, full of incense. (15) One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the first year, for a burnt offering. (16) One kid of the goats for a sin offering. (17) And for a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of the first year. This was the offering of Nachshon the son of Aminadav.

 

            As is well known, the Torah repeats this account of the sacrifices in precisely the same words for each of the princes, who offered their sacrifices according to the order of their banners (Yehuda, Yissachar, Zevulun, Reuven, Shimon, Gad, Efrayim, Menashe, Binyamin, Dan, Asher and Naftali). At the end, the Torah totals together all of the sacrifices:

 

(84) This was the dedication of the altar, on the day when it was anointed, by the princes of Israel: twelve dishes of silver, twelve silver bowels, twelve spoons of gold. (85) Each dish of silver weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, each bowl seventy; all the silver vessels weighed two thousand four hundred shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. (86) The golden spoons were twelve, full of incense, weighing ten shekels apiece, according to the shekel of the sanctuary; all the gold of the spoons was a hundred and twenty shekels. (87) All the oxen for the burnt offerings were twelve bullocks, the rams twelve, the lambs of the first year twelve, with their meal offering; and the kids of the goats for a sin offering were twenty four bullocks, the rams sixty, the he-goats sixty, the lambs of the first year sixty. This was the dedication of the altar, after it was anointed.

 

            Why does the Torah repeat the list of the same sacrifices over and over again, and what is the purpose of the overall tally at the end?[6]

 

            Commentators over the generations emphasized the idea of equality that arises from the chapter. Thus, for example, the Sifrei Zuta:

 

"From the princes of Israel." What is taught by "from the princes of Israel?" This teaches that they contributed on their own initiative, and that the offering of each of them was the same in length, in width, and in weight.

R. Shimon says: What is taught by "from the princes of Israel?" This teaches that they contributed on their own initiative, and that the offering of each was the same, and that one did not offer more than his fellow, for had one offered more than his fellow, none of the offerings would have set aside Shabbat. God said to them: You showed honor one to the other, and I will show honor to you. As it is stated: "And the Lord said to Moshe, 'They shall offer their offering, each prince on his day.'" (Sifrei Zuta, section 6, no. 84) 

 

            Chazal expounded the tallying of the sacrifices in similar fashion:

 

"This was the dedication of the altar, in the day when it was anointed." Did the entire dedication of the altar take place on the day that it was anointed? But surely the dedication of the altar did not end until twelve days had passed! Rather, Scripture comes to teach you that all the tribes are equal and equally dear to the Holy One, blessed be He. For Scripture related to them as if they had all offered [their sacrifices] on the first day, to fulfill that which is stated: "You are all fair, my love; there is no blemish in you" (Shir Ha-shirim 4:7). (Bamidbar Rabba 14, 12)

 

            The Ramban offers a similar explanation (Bamidbar 7:2-5):

 

The Holy One, blessed be He, shows honor to those who fear Him, as it is stated: "Those that honor Me I will honor" (I Shmuel 2:30). Now, all of the princes brought this offering that they had agreed upon together on the same day, and it would have been impossible for the one not to precede his fellow. And so, He honored those who come first with their banners that they should come first with their sacrifices. But He wanted to mention them all by name and to spell out their sacrifices and to mention the day of each one, and not that he should mention and honor the first one, "This is the offering of Nachshon the son of Aminadav," and say: "And so the princes offered sacrifices, each one on his own day," because this would have been a diminishment of the honor of the others. Afterwards, he put them all together to say that they were equal before Him, may He be blessed. And similarly they said there in the Sifrei (Sifrei Bamidbar, section 53). Scripture teaches that just as they were all the same in one counsel, they were also all the same in merit.

 

            Many others explained the matter in this way. For example, the Abravanel writes (Bamidbar 7, s.v ve-omnam, middle): "This was their plan so that there would not be jealousy or competition between them… The Torah attests that the offering of the smallest of the princes was as great and elevated as that of the most venerable among them." R. Zalman Sorotzkin expands upon this idea:

 

The Torah speaks the praises of the princes; the second one did not add to the first, or the third to the second, and so all of them. They did not act as those who in such situations in the presence of all of Israel are wont to… demonstrating that they are superior to all of their colleagues - they did not do this. Now, inasmuch as had the second added to the first, it would have been necessary to spell out his contribution, the Holy One, blessed be He, did not want the second one to lose out and not have his sacrifice spelled out in the Torah, just because he acted properly and did not compete with his fellow. (Oznayim Le-Torah, Bamidbar 7:18)

 

            Thus, we have here a certain repair of the princes' sin at the time of the contributions toward the building of the Mishkan, which, according to the midrashim cited above, the princes tried to exploit for their own honor.[7]

 

            In the continuation of his commentary, the Ramban offers another reason for the Torah's lengthy account of the princes' offerings:

 

There is also another reason in the midrashim, namely, that each of the princes thought to bring a dedication to the altar, and that it should be of this measure. But Nachshon thought that it should be of this measure for one reason, and each of the other princes thought of a different reason.

They said that Nachshon thought to bring a silver dish, the sum of whose letters is 930, corresponding to Adam's years, and the weight of which was a hundred and thirty [shekel], corresponding to [Adam's age when] he first raised children [to maintain the world]. And the entire midrash, as recorded by Rashi (v. 19).

Or [you may interpret it] in accordance with another midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 13, 13) that each and every tribe had a tradition from our father Yaakov about everything that would happen to it until the days of the Messiah. And Nachshon started by offering in correspondence to the monarchy: a dish and a bowl, corresponding to two kings that would eventually issue from him and rule over the sea and the land, Shlomo and the messianic king. Therefore, he offered a dish, corresponding to the sea which surrounds the whole world and resembles a dish… And Netanel the son of Tzo'ar also thought in his heart to bring a dedication [offering] in this measure, and he thought [to bring it] for a different reason (ibid. 13, 15). And he offered in correspondence to the Torah, for the praise of the tribe of Yissachar was about knowledge of the Torah; a dish of silver corresponds to the Torah, which is called bread, as it is stated: "Come, eat of my bread" (Mishlei 9:5)… And Zevulun offered, for he was involved in business, and he would exert himself and feed Yissachar and receive reward for it. A dish corresponding to the sea… (Bamidbar Rabba 13, 16). And similarly they find there in the Midrash, regarding each and every tribe, a special reason for its offering and for the measures of the offering. And Scripture therefore made them all equal, spelling out the details of each one, as if the other had not been mentioned.

And at the end He puts them all together as one, alluding that at one and the same time they each had thought to offer the dedication [offering], and that the one did not precede his fellow in thought or in bringing it before the Mishkan. For this reason, Scripture mentions all of them in equal measure.

 

            On the one hand, the identical sacrifices give individual expression to each and every tribe, while on the other hand, they give collective expression to all the tribes.

 

2) What is the significance of the details of the offerings of the princes? The midrashim expand at length on the meaning of these sacrifices. Bamidbar Rabba (13, 14 – 14, 12) (part of which was cited by the Ramban, in the passage brought above) expands at great length about this hidden meaning: "What did the princes see to offer these sacrifices? The Rabbis said: Even though they [all] offered the same sacrifice, they all offered it for great things, and each one offered it according to his own understanding" (ibid. 13, 14): Yehuda, regarding the kingdom; Yisachar, regarding the Torah; Zevulun, regarding those who support the Torah; Reuven, regarding the rescue of Yosef; etc. These expositions are numerous, and we cannot expand upon them here. Anyone who wishes to examine them further is invited to see the midrashim as well as the early and later commentators.

 

            Following the plain sense of the text, it should be noted that, like the sacrifice brought by the people on the eighth day, the princes' sacrifices also include burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings and meal offerings, that is to say, all types of sacrifices (see my discussion of the phenomenon on the eighth day in the previous lecture).

 

            In conclusion, let us consider the words of R. S.R. Hirsch on the matter:[8]

 

(14) Taken together, the dish, the bowl and the spoon express in general the three fundamental procedures, acceptance, giving oneself up to, and sublimation (accepting the blood, throwing the blood onto the altar, and burning in the fire on the top of the altar), which would be performed at and on the altar, and so they form the basis for the dedication of the altar. The acceptance begins within the sanctuary with one's material possessions, the dish (ke'ara); the giving oneself up to higher spiritual endeavors is done with the living being of the person, the bowl (mizrak); and the most complete sublimation in God, with the spoon (kaf), is accomplished above all with the Divine flaming godliness in man.

(15-16) After the dedication of the property of the tribes in the meal offering, the dedication progresses in a burnt offering and a sin offering and to a dedication of all their activities on the basis of seriousness in life and maintenance of a moral standard. His tribe shall at all times maintain un-temptable firmness (goat-like) on the heights of all moral standards, and in the service of God keep an un-weakened strength for work (young bullock); amongst its brother-tribes, it will keep a progressive leading position (ram) and in following God remain ever active in energetically striving upwards to Him, never presuming too far, never imagining it had outgrown the necessity for guidance (sheep in its first year for a burnt offering); (see my commentary to Vayikra 6:14). That they could bring this voluntary sin offering was a temporary ruling, connected to the dedication moment (see my commentary to Vayikra 4:24).

(17) And for a peace offering – But the dedication of the altar reaches its crowing point in the peace offering, in the offering in which – having dedicated their possessions and activities – the tribe comes to God in happiness at its own existence, and wishes, in the happy enjoyment of itself, to attain nearness to the Presence of God. In it is mentioned an animal that never again appears in offerings as such, "atudim" – he-goats. According to the Radak, they are bigger and older he-goats compared to a "sa'ir," the usual characteristic animal for offerings out of goats. It is not far-fetched, then, to see in atudim those animals amongst the goats in whom the ez and the sa'ir character appears in an enhanced degree; there are the "atidim," always prepared, the big strong he-goats of the herd, always ready for the fray. Hence, Yeshayahu 14:9 uses atidei aretz to designate all the other great martial powers that pass across the stage of history, like Babylon. The tribe rejoices before God in its existence and purposes as a bullock, as a co-worker with God in His great work in the world, as a ram, as being in the sphere of its national contemporaries, as a goat, in defending the vindication of rights against the rest of the world, and finally as a sheep, as faithful devotion to the guidance of the "Shepherd of Israel."

The numbers are characteristic. A number occurs here which otherwise never occurs as being ordered for offerings, viz. five. If we consider that ten is the radix, the basic number of a congregation, of a company of people forming a closed unit, then five as a half would represent a company not closed in to form a unit, but requiring another half for its completion. We understand, then, why, in peace offerings, in expressing its joy in its existence and purpose before God, the tribe does not wish to express itself as a closed unit, but as half such a one, requiring union with a brother-tribe. In the burnt offering, the expression of what the tribe should be, it can appear as one bullock. For each tribe should form a separate "one" in the total of the people of God through its own characteristic specialty. But in peace offerings, the expression of joy in what it is, the tribe does not think of itself as a closed separate unit and not one and not ten is the sign-number of its offering. As a bullock, in its activity, in working in the service of God, the tribe avows itself as two oxen, as a "plurality." It thinks of the contribution of God's work on earth that is made by the activity in every hut of the tribe, in every breast of every single individual of the masses who only reckons himself as one of the "thousands and ten thousands of Israel." And in his joy at his ram influence at home and his goat strength abroad, as well as his sheep consciousness of God's guidance, he thinks of himself only as a part of the whole, feels himself only complete in brotherly union and expresses this joy as "five rams, five he-goats, five sheep in their first year."

 

5)         SUMMARY

 

            The dedication of the princes – which the princes initiated as a repair of their attitude toward the building of the Mikdash – is shrouded in the spirit of unity and equality, which do not come to blur the uniqueness of each prince and each tribe, but rather to present the entire people before God as equals, in brotherhood and unity.

 

I.          MOSHE'S CONNECTION TO THE MISHKAN

 

To conclude our analysis of the dedication of the Mishkan, I wish to devote the coming pages to an examination of Moshe Rabbenu's connection to the Mishkan as it finds expression in the three accounts of the dedication of the Mishkan. In each account, the Torah emphasizes Moshe's direct role in the dedication of the Mishkan.

 

1)         AT THE DEDICATION OF THE MISHKAN IN THE BOOK OF SHEMOT

 

All of Parashat Pekudei revolves around Moshe's central role in the building and setting up of the Mishkan. In this parasha, Moshe appears as the one who is in charge of the entire project. The parasha opens as follows:

 

These are the accounts of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the Testimony, as they were counted, according to the commandment of Moshe, for the work of the Levites by the hand of Itamar the son of Aharon the priest. And Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehuda, made all that the Lord commanded Moshe. (Shemot 38:21-22)

 

            Similar expressions repeat themselves several times throughout the entire length of the parasha, but the most prominent of them is the combination, "as the Lord commanded Moshe," which repeats itself seven times (Shemot 39:1, 5, 7, 21, 26, 29, 31) in the description of the fashioning of the priestly garments.[9] When the work is completed, the people of Israel bring the Mishkan – their joint efforts – to Moshe (ibid. v. 33). But the person who is commanded to set the Mishkan up is Moshe himself (ibid. 40:2). In the account of the execution of this command, the expression, "as the Lord commanded Moshe," repeats itself seven more times (ibid. vv. 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32). The account concludes as follows: "So Moshe finished the work" (ibid. v. 33).

 

            The Tanchuma (end of Pekudei) explains this emphasis and repetition:

 

"As the Lord commanded Moshe." Why is it written here several times, "as the Lord commanded Moshe?" Because Israel thought badly about Moshe when they were setting up the Mishkan and it would not stand. They said: Perhaps the Holy One, blessed be He, said something easy to Moshe to do in the Mishkan, and it was Moshe on his own who brought us into all this effort. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, said: Since you thought badly of him, I will write his name on each and every thing that I commanded him. Therefore, it is written, "as the Lord commanded Moshe," each and every time. The Holy One, blessed be He, said: If a person wishes to think badly about Moshe, let him think badly about Me, for I said all of this to him and that they should make for Me a Mishkan. (Tanchuma Pekudei 11)

 

            The end (and perhaps the climax) of this account is the call to Moshe from the Tent of Meeting:

 

Then a cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moshe was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud rested on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle… And the Lord called to Moshe, and spoke to him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying. (Shemot 40:34-35 – Vayikra 1:1)

 

2)         AT THE DEDICATION OF THE MISHKAN IN THE BOOK OF VAYIKRA

 

As we saw at length in the previous lecture, Moshe executes the process of sanctifying and dedicating the Mishkan, the altar, and the priests during the seven days of milu'im, during which time Moshe served as priest, (as is explained in Vayikra 8). He also led the events that took place on the eighth day: he called to Aharon, his sons, and the elders of Israel, and he commanded Aharon to offer his sacrifice and the sacrifice of the people. Even at the climax of this process, Moshe remains in the picture:

 

And Moshe and Aharon went into the Tent of Meeting, and came out, and blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat. When all the people saw this, they shouted and fell on their faces. (Vayikra 9:23-24)

 

3)         AT THE DEDICATION OF THE MISHKAN IN THE BOOK OF BAMIDBAR

 

The account begins with an attribution of the setting up of the Mishkan to Moshe: "And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had finished setting up the Mishkan" (Bamidbar 7:1).[10] In the continuation, Moshe deals with the sacrifices of the princes (ibid. 4-11). And the account – and with it, the full story of the dedication of the Mishkan, with its three dimensions – ends with a description of the realization of the objective that had been told to Moshe when he was first commanded about the building of the Mishkan:

 

And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the covering, from between the two keruvim which are upon the ark of the Testimony, of all things which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel. (Shemot 25:22)

 

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)

 

4)         IN THE MIDRASHIM

 

The midrashim emphasize a point around which Moshe's centrality during the various stages of the building of the Mishkan revolved: his dedication to the entire project.

 

First – regarding the proper execution of the work:

 

"And it came to pass on the day that Moshe finished" (Bamidbar 7:1). This is what the verse says: "He who guards the fig tree shall eat its fruit" (Mishlei 27:18). The Holy One, blessed be He, does not withhold the reward of any creature. Rather, for whatever a person exerts himself and devotes himself, the Holy One, blessed be He, does not withhold his reward… And similarly you find regarding the Mishkan, that even though all of Israel made it and devoted themselves and made the Mishkan… because Moshe devoted himself to it, it was called by his name. As it is stated: "And look that you make them after their pattern" (Shemot 25:40). Moshe went and devoted himself over each and every thing, that it be done as the Holy One, blessed be He, showed him on the mountain, so that they not make a mistake. Therefore, it is written with respect to each and every thing: "As the Lord commanded Moshe"… The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Since Moshe devoted himself to the Mishkan, I will call it by his name. As it is stated: "And it came to pass on the day that Moshe finished." This is: "He who guards the fig tree shall eat its fruit." (Tanchuma Nasa 13)

 

            And in the continuation – regarding Moshe's devotion to the setting up of the Mishkan:

 

"On the day that Moshe had finished setting up the Mishkan." When Israel finished building the Mishkan, they all stood, but the Shekhina did not rest within it. All of Israel went to all the wise men of heart, and said to them: Set up the Mishkan so that the Holy One, blessed be He, will rest His Shekhina among us as He promised us. They wanted to set it up, but they were unable to do so. They went to Betzalel, and said to him: We used to say, Perhaps through the son of Amram, the Holy One, blessed be He, would leave the serafim and the ofanim and the galgalim and all of His glory and rest among us. Come, perhaps it will stand through you. He too tried to set it up, but he was unable to do so. They all began to talk badly about Moshe, saying: See what the son of Amram did to us. He came and misled us, saying: Make a Mishkan, and the Holy One, blessed be He, will rest His Shekhina among you, but He has still not rested upon us. Moshe too was distressed because he had not participated in the building of the Mishkan, and the Holy One, blessed be He, knew what was in his heart. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, concealed the matter from them, and they did not know how to set it up. They came to Moshe, and said to him: Surely, everything that you told us to do, we have already done. See, perhaps we missed something or perhaps we did something that you did not say. They showed him each and every thing, and he said to them, Peace [be with you]. They said to him: If so, why did we speak to all the wise men, and they were unable to set it up? When Moshe heard this, he too was distressed along with them. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: I know what is in your heart. Fear not, for only you are permitted to set it up. "You shall set up the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting" (Shemot 40:2). He said before Him: Master of the universe, I do not know how to set it up. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: I will make it stand, and will write in the Torah: "And Moshe erected the Mishkan" (ibid. v. 18). From where do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, erected the Mishkan? As it is stated: "The tabernacle was erected" (ibid. v. 17). And from where do we know that Moshe erected it? As it is stated: "And Moshe erected the tabernacle." And here it says: "And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had finished setting up the Mishkan." (Midrash ha-Gadol, Bamidbar 7:1, s.v. be-yom kelot Moshe le-hakim et ha-mishkan).

 

R. Chiyya bar Yose said: Moshe also devoted himself to the Mishkan and it was called by his name. R. Chiyya bar Yose said: All seven days of the milu'im Moshe would take it apart twice each day and put it together. R. Chiyya ha-Gadol said: Three times every day, as it is stated: "You shall erect," "it was erected," "he erected" (Shemot 40:2, 17, 18). See how he exerted himself in its regard. You might say that the tribe of Levi helped him. No, Moshe himself took it apart and put it together, and nobody in Israel helped him. As it is stated: "And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had finished setting up the tabernacle" – it is not written, 'on the day that Israel had finished," but rather "on the day that Moshe had finished." And since he exerted himself in its regard, it was called by his name. (Tanchuma Ki Tisa 35)[11]

 

            Moshe merited and the Holy One, blessed be He, called to him to enter the Tent of Meeting:

 

Another explanation: "And He called unto Moshe." What is written above – the section regarding the Mishkan, "as the Lord commanded Moshe." This may be likened to a king who commanded his servant saying: Build me a palace. For each thing that he would build, he would write on it the name of the king. He would build walls, and write on them the name of the king. He would erect pillars, and write on them the name of the king. He would build a roof out of beams, and write on them the name of the king. One day the king entered the palace. Everything that he looked at, he found his name written on it. He said: My servant did all of this glory for me, and I am inside and he is outside? He called to him that he should enter into his innermost chamber. So too when the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moshe: Make for Me a Mishkan, everything that he made, he would write on it, "as the Lord commanded Moshe." The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Moshe did all this glory for Me, and I am inside and he is outside? He called to him that he should enter into His innermost chamber. Therefore it says: "And He called onto Moshe." (Vayikra Rabba 1, 7).[12]

 

***

 

            Thus, we have finished our examination of the dedication of the Mishkan. The next two lectures – the last in this year's series – will be devoted to a comparison between the dedication of the Mishkan and the dedications of the first Temple, the second Temple, and the temple of Yechezkel.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)



[1] "Princes with a Past," in "Studies in Bamidbar," pp. 74-79. Part of what I will say here is based on Nechama Leibowitz's analysis.

[2] The verse, "And the princes brought shoham stones, and stones to be set, for the efod, and for the breastplate" (Shemot 35:27), appears at the end of the account of the contributions to the building of the Mishkan.

[3] That is, he did not single out the princes.

[4] The Ramban (in his commentary to vv. 2-5) suggests several possible reasons why this gift is called a sacrifice (korban): "Since the wagons are for the use of the sacrifices, they are called a sacrifice. And similarly: 'We have therefore brought an offering (korban) for the Lord, what every man has gotten, of jewels of gold' (Bamidbar 31:50) – an offering for the upkeep of the sanctuary… It is possible to explain, 'And they brought their offering before the Lord, six covered wagons' – six large wagons carrying their sacrifices."

[5] Similarly, the Seforno writes on v. 3: "'A wagon for every two of the princes,' as a sign of brotherhood between them, through which they were worthy that the Shekhina should rest among them."

[6] On the level of the plain sense of Scripture, M.D. Cassuto (Sifrut Mikra'it Ve-Sifrut Kena'anit, vol. I, pp, 31-32) argues that such repetition is characteristic of epic poetry: "The listeners are exceedingly happy when they hear the poet open with a passage that is already familiar to them and dear to their hearts. This makes it easier for them to listen to the words of the poet, and as it were, to participate in his oration or song."

We, however, will focus here on the conceptual explanations arising from the midrashim of Chazal.

[7] A review of the explanations given for this matter may be found in an article written by R. Yosef Pri'el, "Al Ha-Arikhut Be-Korbanot Ha-Nesi'im," Shema'atin 166 (5766), pp. 15-18). He himself suggests that the princes' offerings give expression to the rehabilitation of the people in the wake of the tragic deaths of the sons of Aharon on the day of the dedication of the Mishkan: "Each day, another prince offered his sacrifices, which were accepted with favor, and a man-eating fire did not descend again from heaven."

[8] Among other things, he points to two exceptional elements in the sacrifices brought by the princes, both of which are worthy of discussion on the level of the plain sense of the text: 1) the use of atudim as animals that are sacrificed; 2) the number five, which does not appear anywhere else in the context of other sacrifices.

[9] Regarding the significance of this expression from a literary perspective as unique to Parashat Pekudei, see R. Elchanan Samet, "Ma Bein Parashat Vayakhel Le-Farashat Pekudei?", Iyyunim Be-Farashot Ha-Shavu'a (Jerusalem, 5762), pp. 281-291. He explains that the theme of Parashat Pekudei is the completion of the building of the Mishkan.

[10] As we shall see below, many of the midrashim dealing with Moshe's central role in the establishment of the Mishkan are based on this verse.

[11] A slightly different reading is found in the Pesikta Rabbati (parasha 5, s.v. yelamdenu): "'And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had finished setting up the Mishkan.' This is one of the three things to which Moshe devoted himself and the Holy One, blessed be He, called them by Moshe's name: the laws, the Torah, and the Mishkan… Where do we know that Moshe devoted himself to the Mishkan? R. Chiyya ben Yosef said: All seven days of the milu'im Moshe would take it apart twice a day and put it back together. R. Chanina Ha-Gadol said: Three times a day he would take it apart and put it back together. You might say that there was someone from the tribe of Levi that assisted him. [But] our Rabbis said: He himself would take it apart, and nobody in Israel would help him. From where do we know this? From what we read: "And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had finished setting up the Mishkan."

[12] The midrashim that we have seen offer various interpretations of the expression, "as the Lord commanded Moshe." According to the Tanchuma on Parashat Pekudei, these are the words of God, who emphasizes that Moshe did everything as he had been commanded. The Tanchuma on Parashat Naso sees these words as the Torah's way of expressing Moshe's devotion to do precisely as he had been commanded by God. Vayikra Rabba explains that these are the words of Moshe, who repeatedly notes that everything had been done for the sake of God.