"Make for me a Tabernacle and I will dwell within them."
R' Yishayahu Horowitz, the author of the classic Shnei Luchos HaBris, (Parshas Terumah, end of section "al Derech HaSechel"), explains the building of the Tabernacle (Mishkan) through several levels of understanding.
He asked, "What is the meaning of 'And I will dwell within them'? The verse should have read 'I will dwell within it'".
He answers that the Torah is referring to our thoughts. Hashem is saying that He will dwell within the minds of all those who participate in the construction of the Mishkan by building the inner spiritual Mishkan of pure dveykus (attachment) to Hashem.
The words of the Shelah (the Shnei Luchos HaBris) need further explanation.
R' Yisroel of Ruzhin explained why Hashem needed to make a Mishkan in the mind of every Jew.
"Hashem gave the commandment to build the Mishkan only after the incident of the Golden Calf. When the Jewish nation stood before Hashem at Mt. Sinai and received the Torah, they were elevated to an exalted state whereby they were wholly cleansed from any trace of spiritual impurity. At that moment there was no need for a Mishkan to serve as a special dwelling place for Hashem in the lower worlds. Every person standing at Mt. Sinai had a clear revelation of godliness. But the incident of the Golden Calf caused the people to be hurled down from this level, causing a great separation and they were forced to resume a merely physical existence." (This is one of the reasons why Chazal maintain that women are on a higher level of closeness to Hashem than men and therefore don't need the all the Mitzvos to maintain their connection with Him. They didn't participate in the Golden Calf!)
"Later, when Hashem became appeased with Klal Yisrael, He desired to do something to renew the relationship. So He gave the instructions for building the Mishkan, the place designated for the revelation of the Divine Presence. From there Yisrael would be able to draw down Godliness, the spirit of purity and holiness and into their lives."
"And we", continued the Rizhiner, "We have no Mishkan
today. What can we do? Each Jew, if he makes a Mishkan
in his mind, by dedicating his speech and his actions to the service
of Hashem, can transform his being into a Tabernacle.
Then the Divine Presence will again have a dwelling place in this
"And you shall make the staves (carrying poles for the Ark) from acacia wood and cover them with gold. And put the staves through the rings on the sides of the ark in order to carry the Ark with them. The staves shall remain in the rings of the Ark, they shall not (ever) be removed from them." (Exodus 25:13-15)
Rashi comments that this instruction "not to remove the staves from the rings of the Ark," is one of the 365 negative Mitzvos of the Torah.
Additionally, Hashem instructs Moshe Rabbenu to make rings and staves for other vessels in the Mishkan; for the Showbread Table, the Copper Altar and for the Golden Altar. Yet there is no prohibition of removing the staves from these vessels. When the Mishkan was in use, the staves were taken out and put away until it came time to transport the Mishkan to a new camp. An important lesson in Derech Eretz can be drawn from this.
The Showbread Table and the Golden Altar were placed in the inner courtyard of the Mishkan, and the Copper Altar was placed in the outer courtyard surrounding the Mishkan. The Mishkan itself which was an area of 450 sq. feet (42 sq. meters), was constantly occupied by Cohanim who were performing the various services that were required each day.
The Ark on the other hand, was placed in the innermost chamber, of the Holy of Holies, a space of about 225 sq. feet (21 sq. meters). Only one person (the Cohen HaGadol) went into the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year; on Yom Kippur. Since they weren't in anybody's way, it wasn't necessary to remove the staves from the Ark. But the staves in the other vessels in the Mishkan and in the outer courtyard, which protruded from the vessels by as much as 6-10 feet on any given side, would have presented an obstacle to the Cohanim working there. Therefore the Torah allows the staves to be removed in order not to impede those whose work required them to be moving about in that area.
From here one can learn to be careful not to put any stumbling blocks, potential or existant, before others. (A classic example is pushing ones chair in when leaving the table. It makes it easier and safer for other people in the room to move about.)
A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS
"And cover it (the Ark) with pure gold inside and out, and you shall make upon it an ornate golden rim all around." (Exodus 25:11)
"And cover it (the Table) with pure gold, and you shall make for it an ornate golden rim all around." (Exodus 25:24)
"And cover it (the Golden Incense Altar) with pure gold, its top, its walls all around and its corners, and you shall make for it an ornate golden rim all around." (Exodus 30:3)
Three vessels in the Mishkan required a "Zair Zahav", a golden diadem. The Ark, the Showbread Table, and the Golden Incense Altar. Concerning the Ark the Torah states, "and you (pl.) shall make upon it ". Concerning the Showbread Table, and the Golden Incense Altar the Torah states, "and you (sing.) shall make for it". Why does the Torah change its language in these two ways?
The Rambam (Maimonaides) states in the beginning of his Hilchos Talmud Torah (chapter 3), "Yisrael was crowned with three crowns: Torah, Priesthood, and Kingship. The crown of the Priesthood belongs to Aaron (and his descendants). . . the crown of the Kingship belongs to David (and his descendants). . . The crown of Torah waits ready, available to anyone who claims it, as it is written, 'The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob'". (Deut. 33:4)
The Golden Incense Altar alludes to the priesthood. Incense is something non-physical, more spiritual in substance, given to the Cohanim since they were charged with the spiritual well-being of the people. The Table of the Showbread is an allusion to sustenance, something physical in nature, therefore associated with the King who is entrusted with the responsibility of the physical well-being of the people. The Ark represents Torah, the repository for the tablets of the Ten Commandments, and later, for the first Sefer Torah.
Concerning the Table of the Showbread and the Golden Incense Altar it is written, "and you (sing.) shall make for it", it implying that these crowns are to be passed down along a singular, direct, hereditary line. Regarding the Ark, however, it is written, "and you (pl.) shall make upon it ". The implication is that this crown is not passed by inheritance to a select line, rather the crown of Torah may be placed on anyone who claims it by dedicating oneself to studying it and upholding its ways. (Rabbenu Bachye Shemos 25:11)
"This is the Terumah which you shall bring from them; gold, silver and copper." (Exodus 25:3)
Above, it was mentioned that the construction of the Mishkan was a consequence of the Incident of the Golden Calf. Rabbenu Bachye learns that the building of the Mishkan was proof that Hashem had forgiven us totally for the Golden Calf.
A Midrash in Vayikra Rabbah 27:8 explains this idea: "Their malice caused the King to rejoice." (Hosea 7:3) The Midrash asks, when Hashem gave the commandments for the sacrifices, why did He begin with the "ox". It answers with a parable. "R' Levi said, It can be compared to a nobleman about whom malicious gossip was circulated. The King, upon hearing it, made a thorough investigation into the matter, and found the allegations to be completely false. What did he do? He made a feast, and invited the same falsely maligned nobleman, and placed him at the head of the table. It was made clear to the King's court that there was no substance to the gossip. Similarly, the nations of the world point to the incident of the Golden Calf and reminded Hashem of Yisrael's rebellion. What did He do? He investigatethe matter and found that they had done complete Teshuva. What then? When He gave the commandment of the sacrifices (Leviticus 1), He listed the ox first as a sign that he was appeased."
Rabbenu Bachye, uses this Midrash to clarify our verse. Why was gold the first to be listed among the fifteen items required for building the Mishkan? Hashem wanted to show that had completely forgiven Yisrael for the incident of the Golden Calf. Therrefore he listed gold as the first of the materials needed in the Mishkan. Gold was invited to sit, to use the Midrash, at the head of the table.
ABSOLUTE FORGIVENESSThe Ra'shash, Rabbi Shmuel Strahsuhn, was one the leading sages of Vilna and a wealthy man. He was reknowned for his keen insights into the Talmud. He asked very tough questions on every page in the Talmud. His famous commentary includes many of these questions, some answered and some not. Scholars to this day still wrestle with his questions. He became a partner in the printing of the Vilna Shas, one of the first printed editions of the entire Talmud. Since the Vilna edition included his commentary, it became immensely popular and he subsequently became very wealthy.
The Ra'shash maintained a special free loan fund which was available to all the residents of Vilna. Once, a simple Jew, a baker, who had borrowed money from the Ra'shash, arrived at his home with the funds in hand to repay his loan. He was admitted into the Ra'shash's study where the Rabbi was engrossed as usual in his learning. He accepted the money from the baker, nodded his head in recognition and placed the bills between the pages of the Tractate that he was studying, without interrupting his learning.
Several months later, when the Ra'shash was reviewing the ledgers of the Fund, he came across a delinquent loan; the baker's. He called the baker in and requested payment of the loan, but the baker demurred, insisting that the loan had been repaid months before. But the Ra'shash, who was as meticulous a businessman as he was a scholar, only saw that in his ledger the loan was still outstanding. After several attempts to obtain repayment of the loan, he finally brought the baker to a Beis Din (Rabbinic Tribunal) to adjudicate the case. The baker, having no evidence of repayment, and going against the reputation of the one of the greatest sages of Vilna, was ordered to pay the amount of the loan to the Rabbi. The humiliation he suffered was horrible. People stopped buying baked goods in his bakery and he was soon forced to leave Vilna for a distant town, hoping to rebuild his life. Even his son, a promising young scholar in his own right, was forced to leave his studies in Vilna, and found it all but impossible to find an appropriate wife.
Less than a year passed. The Ra'shash was reviewing the same Tractate that he had been learning when the baker came to repay his loan. As he turned the page, a packet of bills dropped down on the table in front of his volume. It took only a moment for the Ra'shash to realize what had happened, and what he had, inadvertently, caused. Immediately he rose, and summoned his coach to take him to the distant town where the baker now lived. It was a full day's journey, but the Ra'shash was intent on righting his misdeed. He urged the driver on, and finally they found the town and the home of the exiled baker.
The baker's surprise at seeing the sage quickly turned to dismay as the Ra'shash explained to him how he had found the money from the loan and wished now to beg his forgiveness. "I would gladly forgive you", sighed the baker, "but what good will it do me now? I'm ruined, and I've lost everything. Not only my business, but also my reputation in the community. No matter where I go, the I am haunted by the fact that I dared to stand up to the Ra'shash in Beis Din. How will it help me to forgive you?"
The Ra'shash, understanding the baker's position, countered with another offer. "I can make a public apology. I will go before the entire congregation of Vilna and admit my mistake. Thus you will be exonerated!"
"No, that won't help either", insisted the baker. Everybody will just think that the Ra'shash, with his tremendous piety, is forgiving me. Nobody will really believe that it is true."
The Ra'shash realized that the baker was correct. What could he do to right the misdeed he had done? How could he demonstrate beyond any doubt, that he indeed wronged the baker and was doing Teshuva for it? After a number of heart-aching minutes he knew that he had found the solution.
"Sir", he said addressing the baker. "I propose the following. You have a son, and I have a daughter. Let's unite them in marriage, and I will cover all the costs. Let it be a sign that I was in the wrong and that you were in no way deserving of the unmerciful treatment you received!"
It took only moments for the two fathers to reach an agreement.
The wedding that was held later that month, was a celebration
which created peace and goodwill between all the citizens of Vilna.
It was long remembered as one of the most joyous celebrations
that the Jews of Vilna had ever experienced.