By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
1 Adar II 5765 - March 11, 2005
Hashem wanted the Mishkan built so thereby He
would dwell in the midst of His people (Shemot 25:8). Now, after Moshe assembles
the Mishkan, this goal is achieved:
And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Hashem filled the
Mishkan. And Moshe was not able (YACHOL) to enter the Tent of Meeting, because
the cloud rested upon it while the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan. And
whenever the cloud was raised up from upon the Mishkan, the Children of Israel
would travel in all their journeys. But if the cloud did not rise up, then they
did not travel, until the day that it rose up. For the cloud of Hashem was upon
the Mishkan by day, and fire would be on it at night, before the eyes of all the
house of Israel, throughout all their journeys (40:34-38).
Actually, for seven days, Moshe assembled and dismantled the Mishkan to teach
the Leviim. On the eighth day, which is the first of Nisan, it is set up and not
taken down, and that is when the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan (see Ramban
on 40:2, and the Midrashic sources he cites).
This is the end of the book of Shemot. The book of Vayikra begins:
And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting… (Vayikra
A number of questions arise from this passage:
• Was Moshe either unable to enter the space occupied by the glory of Hashem,
unable to see the entrance, or not permitted to enter the Mishkan?
• Is the beginning of Vayikra a continuation of the end of Shemot, or is it a
• Why does the book of Shemot end with an excursus about the cloud (verses
There are a number of striking similarities between this passage and the
description of Moshe on Mount Sinai:
And Moshe went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. And the
glory of Hashe rested upon Mount Sinai and the cloud covered it for six days.
And He called to Moshe on the seventh day from the midst of the cloud. And the
appearance of the glory of Hashem was like a consuming fire on the mountaintop,
before the eyes of the Children of Israel. And Moshe entered into the midst of
the cloud, and he went up to the mountain; and Moshe was upon the mountain for
forty days and forty nights (24:15-18).
It is clear that the Mishkan has been constructed to duplicate and perpetuate
the encounter between Hashem and man at Sinai.
It is also clear from the above that Moshe was capable of entering the cloud at
Sinai. He was also capable of doing so in the Mishkan:
And when Moshe arrived at the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, he heard the
Voice speaking to him from upon the Ark-Cover that was upon the Ark of the
Testimony from between the two cherubs; and He spoke to him (Bamidbar 7:89).
But, then what is meant by
And Moshe was not able (YACHOL) to enter into the Tent of Meeting?
One way of resolving this is found in Rashi, which is based on the Sifra
(introduction, 8). Moshe was unable to enter the Mishkan only when the cloud
rested upon it while the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan. He would wait
outside the Tent of Meeting until Hashem’s glory would withdraw. Then he would
enter, and Hashem’s Voice would emanate from between the cherubs. Thus, the
beginning of Vayikra, which depicts Hashem speaking while Moshe stands outside
the Mishkan, occurred during the first seven days of installation.
Of course, expressions like the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan and the glory
of Hashem rested upon Mount Sinai should not be misconstrued to suggest that
Hashem is corporeal. Rambam states this emphatically in The Guide of the
Perplexed (I:8, 19, 25). “Hashem’s glory” refers rather to
“the created light that G-d causes to descend in a particular place in order to
confer honor upon it in a miraculous way (ibid., 64).”
Nevertheless, this potential for misunderstanding might be why Ramban suggests
“The reason for this was so that Moshe should not go in without permission, but
instead G-d would call him and then he was to come into the midst of the cloud,
just as He had done on Mount Sinai.”
According to this, YACHOL carries the meaning “permitted,” for which there are
several precedents (Devarim 7:22; 12:17; 16:5; 17:15; 22:3).
In Ramban’s reading, the beginning of Vayikra occurs on the eighth day of
training the kohanim and installing the Mishkan. What is more, the book of
Shemot closes with Moshe standing outside the glory-filled, cloud-enveloped
Mishkan, waiting for Hashem’s permission to enter, but
“Moshe did not enter the Mishkan, but Hashem called him from the Tent of Meeting
and he stood at its door while He spoke to him.”
Until Hashem calls him, however, the Torah adds a parenthetical description of
the cloud. Abravanel (Don Yitzchak Abravanel, 1437-1508) explains, with
reference to the very beginning of the Torah:
“For just as Hashem, may He be blessed, is the universe’s soul and form,
sustaining it and moving it forward, …so it was He, in His glory that abode on
the Mishkan, Who sustained it and moved it forward.”
The universe was created by Hashem’s word alone. The Mishkan was brought into
being by Hashem’s word, but this time was realized by the actions of man, the
people of Israel.
Pekudei, the last parsha in the book of Shemot, summarizes the account of
the construction of the Mishkan, or Tabernacle. The opening verse reads:
"These are the accounts of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of witness…"
Rashi explains the repetition of the word Mishkan with a play on words – "Mishkan,"
meaning Tabernacle, and "Mashkon," denoting a pledge given as security for
a debt. He writes that the repetition alludes to the two Temples which
were pledged by their destruction due to the sins of Israel.
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin, in his commentary to the Torah "Oznayim la-Torah,"
explains the use of the word pledge in reference to the destruction of the
two Temples by way of an analogy to the everyday world of commerce. When a
person suffers a financial setback and finds himself unable to provide for
his daily needs, he may react in various different ways. A person who has
no hope for improvement will sell his possessions. However, one who is
hopeful about the future will pledge his possessions and take loans,
because he is confident that better times lay ahead of him and that he
will be able to redeem his pledges.
The history of the Jewish people includes periods of spiritual wealth as
well as periods of spiritual poverty. The latter led to Divine punishment,
the loss of the Temple and exile from the land of Israel. But these losses
are temporary. As stated by Rashi in Pekudei, they are pledges to be
redeemed – speedily in our days – Amen.
Har Homa , Jerusalem
*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.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Roness ,
Exec. Dir., Aloh Naaleh,
At the OU Center, 22 Keren HaYesod
Tel.(02) 566-7787 ex. 254