The Value of the Mishkan
Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky
1. Blessing Comes Through Things that are not Counted
The Torah states, "These are the accountings of the Mishkan of the
Testimony..." The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh points out that the phraseology used
by the Torah - "These are the accountings..." rather than "And these are
the accountings..." indicates that only this accounting has value. The Ohr
HaChaim asks- how do we understand that there is no reckoning that has
value other than the accounting of the Mishkan?
The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh answers that the Torah does not mean to negate
other accountings, but rather to emphasize that there is uniqueness in the
reckoning of the Mishkan which is not found in any other context. He
explains by citing the Gemara in Tractate Bava Metzia, which
states,"Blessing can only come upon something that is hidden from the eye,
and not upon something which is counted, measured, or weighed." The Gemara
presents an application of this principle. If a farmer brings in his crop
and has not yet quantified his harvest, if he prays to Hashem that blessing
should come upon his crop it is considered a valid prayer. However, if he
prays after the crop has been measured the prayer is done in vain.
The Mishkan was an edifice that was precisely measured and weighed at a
level of exactness not to be compared. There is no other blueprint that is
more specific than that of the Mishkan. Each vessel, tapestry, beam etc.
was created and assembled with the utmost precision. Its accounting needed
to be exact in order to bring about its functionality. Nevertheless, the
Mishkan was the conduit through which all blessing flowed to the Jewish
people and to the world. Yet, this seems to be contradictory to the
principle that blessing cannot come upon that which has been
quantified. The Ohr HaChaim explains that in fact this is what the Torah
is communicating through the phraseology," These are..." Although the
Mishkan was quantified to the nth degree it has the capacity to generate
blessing - which is not the case in any other similar situation. He asks
why the Mishkan is the exception if this principle is the pre-requisite to
The Ohr HaChaim answers that although under normal circumstances this may
be the case, in regard to the Mishkan there was an overriding factor. Since
the Jews gave selflessly of themselves and their wealth for the building of
the Mishkan, the Mishkan had the capacity to generate unlimited blessing.
We can answer the question differently and discern between the
quantification of grain and the quantification of the Mishkan. When the
farmer weighs and measures his grain he is quantifying the reality of his
harvest. The value of a bushel of grain is determined by functionality of
the bushel of grain which is its consumption value. By contrast, although
the physical quantities of the Mishkan and dimension are precise,
nevertheless its essence and value are of an unknown quantity. Only Hashem
knows the true value of the Mishkan and its ramifications. Therefore the
Mishkan, although it was quantified in every aspect of its physicality,
remained "hidden from the eye" and thus was the conduit for the greatest
blessing. Similarly, although the Torah itself can be quantified in its
word make up and letter composition, its true value is infinite. Therefore
only through the Torah do we derive the greatest blessing.
2. Acting in the Best Interest of Your Fellow Jew
The Torah tells us at the beginning of the Portion of Terumah that the
metals that were needed for the Mishkan were gold, silver and copper. The
Midrash tells us that although gold was needed for the building of the
Mishkan itself, simultaneously it is alluding to the preciousness of the
Mishkan to Hashem because it was the Mishkan of Moshe. Moshe was the most
special human being that ever lived.
The Torah tells us that Moshe erected the Mishkan. Rashi cites Chazal who
explain that the Jewish people attempted to erect the Mishkan but were not
able to because the weight of its beams was beyond human capacity. It was
physically impossible for humans to lift the beams of the Mishkan. The
Torah tells us,"The Mishkan was raised through Moshe" and not "raised by
Moshe." Meaning, Hashem said to Moshe although physically it is impossible
to raise the beams, through your initiative, I will assist you to erect the
The Midrash tells us that Hashem inquired why Moshe was in a saddened
state. He responded that he did not participate in the building of the
Mishkan. Hashem said to Moshe,"Your involvement will be greater than
theirs." Although Moshe did not participate in building the Mishkan he
would be the one to erect it. It seems to be incomprehensible that the Jews
would not want Moshe to participate in the actual development of the Mishkan.
The Midrash tells us that if the Jewish people could have erected the
Mishkan without Moshe's involvement they would have forgotten about Moshe
in the total process. One would think that the Jewish people would have
insisted that Moshe, who was the direct link to G-d, be involved in every
aspect of the Mishkan. Yet they did not involve him to any degree. Moshe
was only ultimately involved in the erection of the Mishkan because the
Jews were not able to raise the beams. Why did the Jewish people not
involve Moshe in the building of the Mishkan? How do we understand their
behavior in this matter?
The answer is that even when it involves spirituality people tend focus on
themselves. Even though each person was involved with the building of the
Mishkan with the best intent - L'Shem Shamaim (For the Sake of G-d) - they
still viewed themselves as individuals and not as a larger group working
together. They did not have each other's interest or the interest of the
Jewish people in mind. If they had the best interest of the Jewish people
in mind they would have insisted that Moshe be involved. The behavior of
the Jewish people indicated that although they were at an advanced
spiritual level their behavior regarding the building of the Mishkan
revealed their shortcomings.
Chazal tell us that the human being was created as a single unit without a
counterpart like all other living species in order for him to appreciate
the dictum of, "The entire world was created for me." This concept is
ingrained in the human psyche. The true meaning of this is that that the
world in its entirety was created only as a means for man to serve
Hashem. Because the concept of the world being "created for me" is so
deeply ingrained in man it can express itself with self-interest even in
the area of spirituality.
True Torah leadership throughout history has always expressed itself with
total selfless dedication to the Klal Yisroel. It is only with this
all-inclusive level can we achieve that standard of spirituality that is
expected from us by Hashem.
3. How Can we Help the Situation in Israel?
The Torah states,"You should serve Hashem with all of your heart." The
Gemara asks,"What is the meaning of serving Hashem with all your heart?"
The Gemara answers "it is tefila (prayer)." Rambam (Maimonides) and Ramban
(Nachmanidies) argue regarding the obligation of prayer whether it is a
Torah obligation or only Rabbinic. Rambam is of the opinion that the
obligation of prayer is a Torah Commandment; however, Ramban argues that it
is only Rabbinic. Rabbi Meyer Simcha of D'Vinsk zt'l comments that although
Rambam and Ramban argue regarding the obligation of prayer, both agree that
prayer itself is a Torah concept.
Rambam in Hilchos Taanis (The Laws of Fasting) states that when the Jewish
people experience difficulties and suffering there is a Positive
Commandment to call out to Hashem. This "calling out" is unrelated to the
discussion concerning the obligation of prayer on a regular basis. As is
stated," When the oppressor comes to oppress you, you should call out with
trumpets. Whatever anguishes you - whether it is lack of food or plague
you should call out and pray to Hashem." The Rambam states that this
expression is an important component of Teshuvah (Repentance) that is
required during times of difficulty. Tragedies befall us because we are
not fulfilling our obligations in this world and we acknowledge this when
we do teshuvah in the wake of these tragedies. By doing teshuvah we
proclaim that it is only because of our shortcomings that we are
experiencing these difficulties.
In these tragic times, if one does not cry out and pray as part of the
teshuvah process it is as if one is saying that our difficulties are merely
happenstance and that coincidentally the Jewish people are experiencing
difficulties as we have always experienced throughout history. The Rambam
says that if one does not take to heart these events and do teshuvah by
crying out to Hashem it is considered "cruelty." In addition if one
continues to dismiss these events as coincidence, this will only cause
Hashem to increase the hardship and bring greater tragedies upon the Jewish
people. As the verse states in the Tochacha (at the end of the Book of
Vayikra -Leviticus)," If you will dismiss the tragic events which befall
you as happenstance and I will come upon you with vengeance until you can
no longer dismiss them."
This Wednesday (29 Adar) has been proclaimed a day of tefila (prayer) in
order to beseech Hashem to protect the Jewish people in this time of
trouble in Israel and around the world. The Chofetz Chaim says in his
commentary Mishna Brurah on the Laws of Fasting that Hashem does not look
at our "fasting and sackcloth" but rather at our broken hearts. Our daily
actions and behavior speak louder than our fasting.
It is obvious and clear that the present situation in Israel is not
resolvable through human means. The only way to overcome these tragic
times is only with the direct intervention of Hashem. How do we ask for
the help of Hashem and how do we merit this? Is it by fasting for a
limited twelve-hour period? Or do we need to introspect and upgrade our
level of involvement in Torah?
We pray three times a day. What is the quality of our prayer? Do we focus
on the gravity of the situation of the Jewish people and our own
shortcomings in an earnest effort? Or do we rush through the words while
our mind is preoccupied with mundane concerns? Rambam stated that when we
are in situations such as these, if we do not cry out to Hashem in teshuvah
we are being "cruel."
We pride ourselves as being civilized, ethical and moral people, yet if we
do not pray properly during these times we are not that but rather we are
being cruel. When our brothers are dying every day there is no other way
but to pray and do teshuvah wholeheartedly with our best effort. If we do
not do this, then our inaction is no better than leaving a dying person to
die in the street without getting him medical attention. We are in a
position to make a difference. If we are able to fulfill our obligation
properly between Man and G-d, then we will fulfill our obligation between
Man and Man.
4. In Trying Times How Do we Get Hashem's Attention?
The Torah states," A person who brings a sacrifice for Hashem from
himself..." The Sforno explains that "from himself" means that when one
brings a sacrifice (Korban) to Hashem, one should predicate the sacrifice
with confession and be a total submission. As the verse states in Prophets
(Novie)," We will bring the oxen with our lips..." and as it is stated in
Psalms (Tehillim),"The sacrifice to G-d (Elokim is a broken spirit..." The
Sforno explains that Hashem not interested in "those fools" who bring their
sacrifice without being in a state of humility and subordination. It is
with the sense of hachnaah (submission) that makes the sacrifice
effective. If one brings a sacrifice to Hashem without realizing his own
unworthiness, Hashem does not respond to that Korban.
When one stands in the presence of Hashem and appreciates to what degree he
is a beneficiary of Hashem's Kindness he will realize his own
unworthiness. Moshe, the greatest Jew who ever lived, when he prayed to
Hashem to grant him permission to enter into the promised land, the
terminology of prayer he used was," Through Your graciousness allow me to
enter the Land." Moshe understood that Hashem owed him nothing. If one
experiences this level of humility and feeling of unworthiness then one's
Korban (Sacrifice) will have its greatest value.
The Sforno specifically quotes this verse from Tehillim that refers to G-d
as Elokim, which is an appellation that refers to the Attribute of Justice
(Midas HaDin). We see from the present situation in Israel that a
dichotomy exists. We see the Attribute of Mercy (Midas HaRachamim) at an
unlimited level because we miracles that are taking place every day.
Simultaneously, unfortunately, we also see the Midas HaDin through the many
human casualties and untold injuries resulting from Arab terrorism.
Whenever the Torah refers to sacrifices they are referred to as "Korban
L'Ashem (Sacrifice to Hashem)" which means that the concept of sacrifice,
which is a means of atonement, is only possible as a result of the
Attribute of Mercy. Within the context of the Attribute of Justice, there
is no forgiveness. Thus there is no place for sacrifices. The Attribute of
Justice dictates that when one sins he should be punished immediately.
Rabbeinu Yonah in Shaarei Teshuvah (The Gates of Repentance), explains that
the verse from Tehillim-"The sacrifice to G-d (Elokim) is a broken
spirit..." is communicating to us a profound insight in words of King
David. The psalmist is telling us that although within the context of
Elokim there is no place to bring a sacrifice, Midas HaDin will accept the
broken spirit of the person as sacrifice to be forgiven. If a person comes
before Hashem in a humble state and a broken spirit recognizing one's
shortcomings then even the Attribute of Justice is in agreement that the
person should be forgiven.
We are currently experiencing tragedies that we have not seen since the
Second World War. My Rosh Yeshivah, Rabbi Yaakov Ruderman zt'l, had
remembered that after WWI the value of a Jewish life was less than a flea.
It was not an uncommon occurrence in Europe that if a non-Jew encountered a
Jew in a secluded location that he would be killed. That is how valueless
the blood of the Jew was. Currently in Israel we see unfortunately similar
behavior (Hashem Yirachem), being perpetrated against our brothers -yet the
nations of the world remain silent.
We need to understand that Hashem is our only true ally and our only
connection with Hashem is through the "broken spirit," recognizing our
spiritual deficiencies. We can only have a relationship with Hashem if we
have relevance to spirituality and that comes only through teshuvah
(repentance), Torah, and good deeds. Therefore the situation in Israel is
meant to alert us to make the necessary changes in our lives. We should
increase our Torah study and prayer; since the destruction of the Temple
this is the only means available to us.
5. Understanding Spiritual Maintenance
In this week's parsha we find that the letter aleph in the word Vayikra is
written smaller than all of the other letters. Why is the aleph smaller
than all of the other letters? The Baal HaTourim cites the Midrash that
explains that in the word Vayikra the letter aleph is small because Moshe
was great, yet he was humble. Rashi says that when Hashem normally
communicated with prophets of the world He used the word Vayikar (derived
from the word Mikreh which means"coincidental") rather than Vayikra, which
He used when He summoned Moshe. For example, when Hashem spoke to Bilaam
He used the word Vayikar to indicate that the communication was equivalent
to something that was coincidental that appeared to Bilaam in a
dream. Contrastingly, Hashem used the word Vayikra (with the aleph) to
indicate that He had a special relationship with Moshe and the
communication was something that was meant to be. Moshe wished that the
aleph be omitted from the word Vayikra so as not to openly reveal his
relationship with Hashem. After Hashem insisted on writing the aleph, Moshe
stipulated that if it will be written it should be written smaller than all
of the other letters of the word.
Even if we say that Moshe was more humble than any person who ever lived,
we must still say that he understood his own spiritual dimension. Moshe
broke the First Tablets (Luchos Rishonim) given to him by Hashem after
seeing the Jewish people engaged in idolatry. Hashem congratulated him for
his actions. If in fact Moshe had no understanding of his own spiritual
dimension he would not have taken the initiative to break the Luchos. One
would think since Moshe's spiritual dimension had already been revealed as
a result of the breaking of the Tablets, why then would Moshe insist that
the aleph in Vayikra be omitted in order to conceal his special ness?
Moshe was the most humble person who ever lived because of his
understanding of who Hashem was - therefore he understood who he was
not. Moshe did not pride himself on his exceptional level of spiritual
achievement because he understood that the only way that he was able to
sustain his spirituality was only by doing the will of Hashem in the most
perfect way. If one lives his life responsibly would he pride himself that
he did not kill, steal, lie, or cheat? Or is it because he understands
that a responsible human being does not behave in this manner. Therefore,
living responsibly does not illicit pride.
If a person would understood the nature of his spirituality and that it
needs to be sustained through Torah study, observance of Mitzvos, would he
pride himself for observing them? Everyone understands that we need to
breathe, eat, and sleep in order to survive but do we take pride in how
many breaths we take a minute? - Clearly not. Therefore tending to one's
spiritual well being and survival is no different. Moshe appreciated this
level of understanding like no other human being.
When G-d wanted to use the aleph in Vayikra to indicate Moshe's special
spiritual level, Moshe believed that he did not deserve that kind of
recognition because he was only doing what was necessary for him to
maintain himself. Moshe believed that what he had accomplished spiritually
was no more that maintaining his physical existence. This is what is
stated in the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (Ethics of Our Fathers),"If you had
learned an enormous amount of Torah do not pride yourself in it because for
that you were created." Meaning, that the study of Torah is a necessity for
our spiritual existence.
Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon) tells us in Proverbs," Nair Mitzvah V'Torah
Ohr" - meaning that when one engages in Torah study issues become
illuminated because the Torah itself is the "illuminator." Moshe had
continuous clarity because of his unceasing involvement with Torah at its
most advanced level. He was able to understand good and evil to such a
degree that he was not even attracted to evil at all but rather detested
it. As a result of this continuous involvement his physicality became fully
We, however, are physical beings with inclinations that need to be kept in
check. How do we attain the clarity and strength to control these
inclinations? It is only through the study of Torah - as it is stated in
the Gemara, "I (Hashem) Created the Evil Inclination and I have created the
Torah as its Antidote."
We have the obligation to be continuously engaged in Torah study, as it
says," You shall engage in Torah day and night". However, because of our
non-continuous involvement we have lack of clarity. This is why Hashem
wants us to study continuously
6. The Month of Redemption
The Torah tells us that the Mishkan was erected on the first day of the
month of Nissan. The Chazal tell us -"In Nissan our Ancestors were redeemed
and in Nissan in the future we will be redeemed." Being that we are in the
month of Nissan, it is possible that we will experience the ultimate
redemption and the building of the Third Bais HaMikdash at any moment. As
the Chazal tell us," The Salvation of Hashem comes like a blink of an eye."
We may all celebrate Pesach (Passover) in Yerushalaim this year, G-d willing.
The Shalah explains that the building of the Mishkan was to reestablish the
initial intent of Creation. G-d's original intent in Creation was that His
existence should dwell on this earth amongst all mankind. The entire world
would have been the Mishkan; however, due to the spiritual contamination
that was brought about by Adam's sin, the world was no longer qualified to
function in this capacity.
If the Jewish people had not sin with the Golden Calf (Chet HaAgle) after
leaving Egypt, they would have been reinstated to the level of Adam -
pre-sin. Thus qualifying to be the dwelling place for Hashem's
existence. However, since they did sin with the Chet HaAgle they reverted
back to their impure state and thus were no longer able to be the domicile
for Hashem's Presence on earth. Therefore Hashem instructed the Jews to
build the Mishkan in order to have that dwelling place.
We see that after the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt, Hashem was
prepared to reinstate His relationship with the World in the manner He had
originally intended. After the 210 year enslavement of the Jewish people,
the miracles in Egypt, and the splitting of the Sea, the world had
spiritually evolved to the point where it was going to revert back to its
pure state before the sin of Adam. At the beginning of Nissan the world
was ready to become Hashem's dwelling place once again. The rays of
redemption began to come over the horizon from the first of Nissan. In fact
Hashem informed Moshe about the Korban Pesach (Pascal Lamb) on the first of
Nisson, which signified the rejection of idolatry by the Jewish
people. This evolution towards spirituality was meant to culminate at
Sinai with the receiving of the Torah. However, this did not happen
because the Jewish people failed with the Chet HaAgle.
What is the ultimate Redemption (Geula) - the ultimate Freedom? Chazal
tells us in Perkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers), "Who is the free man? The
one who engages in Torah study." The person who studies Torah and lives
life according to its principles is truly the free person because through
its study he sheds the shackles of physicality and gains true
perspective. Freedom is directly related to spirituality. When we say that
we will become free in the month of Nissan it means that we will no longer
be bound and limited because of our physicality. Every Jew will recognize
his own spirituality because Hashem will reveal Himself in this existence
(to a degree). Hashem began revealing His Presence in existence through
the Ten Plagues and the Splitting of the Sea, and culminating with the
ultimate revelation, which took place at Sinai.
The Mishkan was erected on the first of Nissan because Nissan itself is the
month of redemption, freedom and spirituality. Nissan is the month when we
reconnect with Hashem. The Ramchal and the Maharal explain that when we
recount events, which are mentioned in the Torah such as Passover, the
Sinai experience, etc., we are not only commemorating these events as
something of the past but rather we are re-experiencing and re-living these
events. The spiritual influences and forces, which existed during the
month of Nissan when the Jews left Egypt, reoccur every Nissan. Therefore
since we are currently experiencing the spiritual influences of redemption
we should take advantage of these influences and develop them further
through tefila, Torah study, and mitzvos. By committing ourselves to
Torah study we can gain the clarity and understanding to bring about the
ultimate redemption and merit the coming of Moshiach.
Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Kalatsky is the founder of the Yad Avraham Institute, a New York-based learning center whose mission is to disseminate Torah to Jews of all backgrounds and walks of life.