Shabbat Tetzaveh - 5760
The Building of the Mishkan
(The following is based on the discussion by Rav Yissachar Yaakovson, in "Bina BaMikra")
RAMBAN, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, sees the Building of the Mishkan, along with the Exodus and the Giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, as one of the three over-arching themes of the Book of Shemot. What made that activity so special?
First of all, he explains, the identification of the Mishkan as the earthly residence, so to speak, of the Divine Presence, raised the Children of Israel to the level of their Avot, their forefathers, upon whose tents the Divine Presence was a fixture. Secondly, it represented the continuation, albeit in less spectacular fashion, of the experience of Sinai, and thirdly, it established the tradition of the spiritual center. Even though historic circumstances did not allow for the determination of a fixed location yet, it stated the principle that a "Bayit," a "Home" for the Holy One could be established on earth at the center of the life of a People.
Shmuel David Luzzatto says that after the Jewish people accepted Hashem's Laws at Sinai, the unprecedented Event that occurred there took on the character of a "Coronation." And once our King was with us, it was proper that He have a "Palace." That "Royal Residence" would be a powerful symbol of Unity for our People, and a sign that it should continue its close attachment to Hashem and His Torah.
The author of the Sefer HaChinuch explains that the Master of the vast Universe really has no need for an earthly "Home" or "Palace," even one made from magnificent cedars of Lebanon. Rather, it as well as the other Commandments of the Torah is for our benefit only. A Commandment, leading to an action performed many times, is a kind of "behavior modification" therapy, creating good and beneficial habits. And the ultimate purpose of those habits is to produce refinement of soul.
MALBIM offers a similar idea. These are his words, in explanation of the Command, "Let them make for Me a holy place, and I will dwell with them:" (Shemot 25:8) "(Hashem) commanded that every person construct a holy pace in the confines of his heart, and prepare himself there to be a Temple for Hashem, and a residence for His mighty Presence and prepare an altar on which to offer all aspects of his personality to Hashem, to the point where he would sacrifice himself at any time for His glory."
Mendelson proposed an original idea, which focused on the educational benefit of the Mishkan for Society. Its lesson is that all creative activity found in a Society - from "necessary" activities, like agriculture, dress, and building to "useful" activities, such as construction of roads and bridges and even activities designed to create pleasure, such as making music, glasswork and working with gold, which have the potential for excess and abuse, can and must be brought under the rubric of "Avodat Hashem," worship of G-d. Their use in the Mishkan, at the very beginning of our national existence, represented their Sanctification, making them potentially holy from then on, even as the first fruits of a farmer, his "Bikkurim," are holy to Hashem.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU