These are the accountings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of
Rashi: The word mishkan/tabernacle appears in our pasuk twice, one following
without any separation from the other. This alludes to another meaning of
the letters MShKN, namely collateral. The pasuk hints that the Beis
HaMikdosh would serve as collateral, and would be twice collected to satisfy
the debts caused by the transgressions of Klal Yisrael. Each destruction of
a Temple was therefore collateral seized for a debt that had not been paid.
Maharal: The thought is certainly true. But why here? Our parshah offers an
audit of what was done in building the Mishkan. Wouldn’t it be more
appropriate to tie in the Mishkan with the larger, fixed versions of the
Mishkan – the two Temples in Yerushalayim – in an earlier parshah? In
earlier parshios we were introduced to the general concept of providing a
place for the indwelling of the Shechinah. Surely an allusion to the
importance of the future versions of the Mishkan belonged there, not here.
Know that according to Chazal2 the first luchos failed in their
mission because they were given in public, amidst much fanfare. Berachah
does not attach itself to phenomena that are public and micro-managed.
Instead, the ayin hora attaches itself to those events. Berachah is a
dynamic process of unfettered, unlimited growth. It is the opposite of
scrutiny and observation, where the eye sizes up a situation, and frames it
in a discrete snapshot of an image, limiting it to that perception.
The allusion to the destructions of the two Temples had to wait till this
point in the text. In this parshah, all aspects of the Mishkan are turned
into numbers. The Mishkan is spliced into different components, all of
which are measured and numbered. Whatever is measured this way is vulnerable
to the ayin hora – and therefore to ultimate failure and destruction. Our
pasuk alludes to the fact that this limiting of the Miskhan provides a
benefit as well – it allows for the expiation of their sin, through the
destruction of the Batei Mikdash.
Testimony of Forgiveness
Rashi: It is called the Mishkan of Testimony because it testified that
Hashem forgave them for the sin of the Golden Calf, for He caused His
presence to dwell among them.
Maharal: Acutally, this is not the way most of us remember the story. Hashem
demonstrated that He forgave them by having Moshe alight the mountain again,
and presenting him with a replacement set of luchos. It would seem to us
that these luchos were the strongest testimony to having achieved forgiveness.
Rashi’s point is that the luchos did not indicate forgiveness. Torah is
given to us as a yoke. No matter how well we understand it and appreciate
it, the fact remains that we are supposed to go about our daily halachic
lives telling ourselves, “The Ribbno Shel Olam demands something of me at
the moment, and I stand prepared to do His bidding.” Elsewhere, we explained
that Hashem held the mountain over their heads in order to impress upon them
– even after having so beautifully expressed their love for Him in the words
naaseh v’nishma – that Torah is not subject to voluntary acceptance or
rejection. It is something we must do.
Presenting Moshe with a second set of luchos, therefore, only indicates that
they were deemed worthy enough to continue to be pressed into Divine
service. By bringing His presence to dwell in their midst, however, Hashem
showed His reinstated approval of them, kivayachol. No one chooses to dwell
among those he despises or dislike. We choose to live among friends, among
those with whom we are emotionally close. The Shechinah’s presence in the
Jewish camp showed that Hashem had turned away from His earlier rejection of
Additionally, the position of Klal Yisrael after the eigel was that of a
woman who has been unfaithful to her husband. By straying after another
god, it was as if they had been adulterous towards their mate, HKBH. An
adulterous woman is forbidden halachically to her husband. When Hashem took
up residence, as it were, among them, He restored the marital home. He
indicated thereby that it was only the mixed multitude, the erev rav, who
had descended to the level of willful avodah zarah. They, too, were the
immediate cause of the transgression of the bulk of the people. The sin of
everyone besides the erev rav, as severe as it was, did not amount to the
amorous fling of a straying wife. Hashem’s return of his presence to them
clearly demonstrated that the allocation of guilt among the people was not
equal, and that the bulk of the nation was not seen as having been adulterous.
1. Based on Gur Aryeh, Shemos 38:21; Chiddushei Aggados, Bava Metzia 42A
2. Tanchuma, chap. 31