Moreover, the holy vessels that were used in the Mishkan never fell into enemy hands either. Even the Holy Ark, which had been transported to the Beit Hamikdash, was hidden and spared capture when the Beit Hamikdash was overrun.
Why did the Mishkan escape the fate that befell both Batei Mikdash? A combination of four factors, the Siforno answers, endowed the Mishkan with a unique sanctity. It contained the luchot that Moshe received at Mount Sinai; it was constructed under Moshe's leadership; it was assembled by the Levi'im; and it was crafted by artisans of spiritual distinction.
By contrast, the first Beit Hamikdash, built by Shlomo Hamelech, was constructed by non-Jewish craftsmen from the city of Tzor. The second Beit Hamikdash was also built by non-Jewish craftsmen and under the auspices of a non-Jewish king, Koresh. Ultimately they were destroyed.
The Siforno emphasizes that despite the greater amounts of wealth that were spent on the construction of both Batei Mikdash, neither was as sanctified as Moshe's Mishkan. Hashem is not impressed by the expense or the grandeur of the edifices that are dedicated to Him. Hashem cherished the Mishkan because it was constructed with spiritual distinction and it was that special sanctity which protected it from our enemies.
This very same notion is found in the actions of Rabbi Chiya. The Talmud tells how he devised a plan to single handedly restore Torah education to Jewish youth. He planted flax, which he then spun into linen and made a net. He used the net to capture deer, whose skins he turned into parchment. Upon these parchments he wrote the entire Chumash. He then taught the Chumash to a select group of young men, who, in turn, taught it to others.
Why did Rabbi Chiya personally grow the flax and capture the deer? Why didn't he simply purchase skins from a dealer?
Rabbi Chiya recognized, the Maharsha explains, that to buy skins would necessarily commercialize, to some degree, his project. He wanted the scrolls to be fashioned exclusively for the sake of Torah study. Only if the children studied Torah from a Chumash made with absolutely pure intentions could he be sure that the Torah he taught them would endure.
In all of our Torah endeavors and particularly those that we undertake on behalf of the community it is necessary that we set the highest standards of integrity and operate purely lesheim Shamayim. The Torah teaches that the results we obtain are commensurate with the standards by which we act.
Rabbi Herschel Welcher
Rabbi Welcher is the Rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Yisrael, Kew Garden Hills, Queens, N.Y.