By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
February 27, 2004
Hashem gives detailed instructions for the building of the
Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary:
And they shall make for Me a Sanctuary (MIKDASH) -- and I will dwell (V’SHACHANTI)
in their midst – according to all that I show you, the design of the Abode (HA’MISHKAN)
and the design of all its vessels; and so shall you do (Shemot 25:8-9).
Rashi (based on Sanhedrin 16b and Shavuot 14a-15a) says and so shall you do
refers to the future:
[This is a command] for all generations. If one of the vessels is lost, or
when you will make Me the vessels of the permanent Temple, such as the tables
and candelabra and lavers and stands that Shlomo made, then you must make them
according to the designs of these.
Note, however, that Rashi does not interpret this as a commandment to build
the Temples, but rather to follow these instructions in fashioning future
vessels. [Rashi may follow Sanhedrin 20b, where the mitzvah to build the
future Temples is derived from Devarim 12:5, 9-11.]
The Mishkan is the first of a series of Abodes for the Divine Presence. After
40 years in the desert, the Mishkan was set up in Gilgal, where it stood for
14 years. Then, a stone roofless structure, which had the curtains of the
Mishkan over it, was erected in Shilo, where it stood for 369 years.
Afterwards, a sanctuary was established in Nov, followed by Giv’on, for a
total of 57 years. Then, Shlomo built the first Beit Hamikdash (Rambam, Laws
of the Temple 1:2, based on Zevachim 112b, 115b-119b). The second Beit
Hamikdash was built by the returning exiles from Babylon, and the future Beit
Hamikdash will be built in the Messianic era.
Although the successive Abodes differ in certain details, there are elements
common to all:
We make in it a holy place, and holy of holies, and before the holy place
there should be another place called the Ulam, and the three together are
called Heichal. And we make another partition around the Heichal at a distance
from it, similar to the curtains of the courtyard that was in the desert, and
all that is surrounded by this partition which is like the courtyard of the
Tent of Meeting is called Azara. All together they are called Mikdash. . .
Everyone — men and women — is obligated to build and to support, by themselves
and by their funds, as with the Sanctuary in the desert (Rambam, Laws of the
Temple 1:5, 12).
What is the relationship between the Mishkan and these later Abodes? Are they
responses to separate Divine commands? Does each Abode supersede the previous
We will answer, based on Rambam and Aruch HaShulchan He-Atid (Dinei Kodashim,
Laws of the Temple, 1:1, 3, 8, 9, 15, 16; 2:1) by R. Yechiel Michel Epstein
The terms MISHKAN and MIKDASH are both applicable to all Abodes (Eiruvin 2a).
However, they highlight different qualities: MIKDASH means the place of
sanctity (K-D-Sh), while MISHKAN means the place where the Divine Presence
Another difference is that MISHKAN connotes impermanence; it is thus
frequently called “tent” and is made of curtains. But MIKDASH, which is also
called “house,” indicates permanence. The Abode of Hashem began as a moveable
place, which teaches:
Behold, the Holy Shechinah is with us in every place . . . And this is the
true meaning of “and I will dwell in the midst of the Children of Israel”,
that is to say, in every place they will be.
The subsequent establishment of the Beit Hamikdash sanctified the site in
According to Rambam (Laws of the Temple 1:1), “And they shall make for Me a
Sanctuary” is the source of the mitzvah to build a Sanctuary to Hashem; this
was realized first through the Mishkan. In Laws of Kings 1:1, however, he
His habitation shall you seek and come there. . . . For you have not yet come
to the rest and the inheritance that Hashem, your G-d, gives you. But, you
will cross the Jordan and live in the land that Hashem your G-d gives you to
inherit. He will give you rest from all your enemies all around, so that you
live in safety. Then it shall be the place which Hashem, your G-d, shall
choose to cause His Name to dwell there . . . (Devarim 12:5, 9-11).
But that text teaches a detail about the building, namely to make the
transition from “tent” to “house” only after achieving national stability.
This process occurred in stages: settling the land, appointing a king,
destroying Amalek and removing all threats to the kingdom, both from within
and without. Correspondingly, the Abode was first a tent (the Mishkan of the
desert and Gilgal), then half-tent half-house (Shilo, Nov and Giv’on), then
house. It was not until Shlomo secured the realm that the permanent Beit
Hamikdash could be built.
Each transition needed to be made in obedience to Divine inspiration (ruach
Hakodesh), as David says when he gives Shlomo the specifications for the
It is all in writing by the Hand of Hashem which He gave me understanding to
know all the works of this design (Divrei HaYamim I 28:19).
Chatam Sofer, in a responsum to his father-in-law, R. Akiva Eger (Yoreh Deah,
236), explains that this requirement is implicit in our text:
According to all that I show you now, so shall you do for future generations
in accordance with what I show: for each structure I will show how to make one
different from the other. So, the Holy One Blessed be He affirmed at the
outset that He would make understood in writing by His Hand to His prophets.
There is nothing here that His prophets innovated in contravention of the law
of the Torah.
Many years of evolving security, as well as explicit prophecy were necessary
before the First and Second Temples could be built. We hope to see the
building of the Third Temple in our days. But, we must be patient and worthy.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"- Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
Parshat Terumah opens a series of
five parshiot that deal with the construction of the Mishkan. This was the
structure in which Divine service was performed on a daily basis in the
desert, and which was the forerunner of the Beit Hamikdash. Since the
Mishkan was to last less than forty years, it seems out of all proportion
for the Torah, where every word is measured, to devote so much space to
teaching and repeating the details of its construction.
The Midrash teaches us
that when God created the world He yearned to have a dwelling place in
man's material world, to complement the one He has in the spiritual world.
To that end, God commanded "And make for me a mikdash and I will dwell
among them (Shemot, 25:8)." The commentators are bothered by the deviation
from the expected "and I will dwell in it," referring to the mishkan. They
explain that God's intention was that every Jew should create an
environment in the material world that would be conducive to housing the
Divine Presence. The Mishkan, and after it the Beit Hamikdash, housed this
presence on an ongoing basis. The environment that is conducive to housing
the Divine Presence is one where material possessions and mundane
activities are sanctified by their focus on the service of God.
sanctification can be replicated both in time and place. Shabbat Kodesh is
the time when physical activities and pleasures can be transformed into
holy acts. Eretz Yisrael is the place where every Jew has the ability to
sanctify worldly activities. The exile has deprived us of the Beit
Hamikdash. But God is now providing us with the opportunity to sanctify
our daily activities, by doing them in Eretz Yisrael. The Torah teaches us
that every Jew is called upon to satisfy God's desire for a dwelling place
in the physical world. This can be done most effectively in Eretz Yisrael.
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320