By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
Shabbat Parshat Terumah
3 Adar I 5765 - February 12, 2005
The Torah describes in great detail the
construction of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary. The ten-cubit by
thirty-cubit Mishkan is placed within a fifty-cubit by one hundred-cubit
courtyard. The Mishkan has two types of dividing curtains:
And you shall make a Partition (PAROCHET)of blue, purple and scarlet wool, and
linen, twisted; of woven (CHOSHEV) work shall you make it, with cherubs. And you
shall place it on four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold, their hooks of
gold, upon four silver sockets. And you shall place the Partition under the
clasps. You shall bring there, within the Partition, the Ark of the Testimony,
and the Partition shall separate for you between the Holy and the Holy of
Holies. … And you shall make a Screen (MASACH) for the opening of the tent of
blue, purple and scarlet wool, and linen, twisted, of embroidered (ROKEM) work.
And you shall make for the Screen five pillars of acacia wood and you shall
overlay them with gold, their hooks of gold; and you shall cast for them five
sockets of copper
These two dividers ― the Parochet and Masach ― have much in common. They are
made of the same combination of materials:
of blue, purple and scarlet wool, and linen, twisted.
Yalkut Shimoni (Pekudei 424) says that a thread of gold was intertwined with the
other threads. Each measured ten cubits across and were ten cubits high (Barayta
d’Melechet HaMishkan, Chapter 4).
Both the PAROCHET and the MASACH serve similar functions, in that they both
create boundaries between different domains within the Mishkan. The PAROCHET
divides the Mishkan into two areas: one third (ten cubits by ten cubits) is the
Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Testimony resides; the other two thirds
(ten cubits by twenty cubits) is the Holy, the place of the Table, the Menorah
and the Golden Incense Altar. The MASACH separates the Mishkan from the
surrounding courtyard, where the Copper Sacrificial Altar was located.
A closer examination of these dividers, however, shows just how different they
are from each other. The word PAROCHET derives from Peh-Resh-CHaf, which means
to break or separate. The word MASACH comes from Samech-CHaf-CHaf (the same root
that gives us SUKKAH, the thatched huts of the festival of Sukkot, as well as
SECHACH, the thatching itself); it means to conceal or shield. It seems that the
PAROCHET is designed to split one thing into parts, namely the Mishkan into the
Holy and the Holy of Holies, whereas the purpose of the MASACH is to cut off the
Mishkan from the area around it.
Rashi says (26:36) that MASACH is a door-curtain that covers the opening to the
Mishkan. In his later comments to 35:12 he elaborates:
“anything that shields, whether from above or facing, is called MASACH or
SECHACH, as in Have You not shielded (SACHTA) him? (Iyov 1:10) and Behold I
screen (SACH) your way (Hoshea 2:8).
(See also Rashi on 40:3.) In contrast, says Rashi (26:31), the PAROCHET is a
partition (mechitzah), what the Sages call PARGOD, a curtain:
“that which separates between the king and the people.”
There are three principal differences in the way these two curtains are made:
1. The PAROCHET is made of woven (CHOSHEV) work …, with cherubs, meaning that
the cherub designs are woven into the fabric from both sides; whereas the MASACH
is made of embroidered (ROKEM) work using a needle (see Rashi here, Yoma 72b and
Rambam “Laws of the Sanctuary Vessels” 8:15).
2. The PAROCHET is held up by four acacia wood pillars, while the MASACH is
supported by five pillars.
3. The PAROCHET is supported by silver sockets, but the MASACH is supported by
Keli Yekar (R. Ephraim Shlomo of Lunshitz, 1550-1619) explains the meaning
behind these differences. It was forbidden to traverse the PAROCHET in order to
enter the Holy of Holies, except when the Kohen Gadol performed the service on
Yom Kippur. On that day, when all Israel deprives themselves of physical
enjoyment, the focus of life is not on the material, but on pure cognition (MACHSHAVA),
as reflected in woven (CHOSHEV) work. The whiteness of the silver sockets that
support the PAROCHET symbolizes forgiveness and purity. And the Kohen Gadol
ministers in four priestly garments, which is reminiscent of the four sockets.
Keli Yakar concludes:
“One who sees this PAROCHET will contemplate and understand that he has no
permission to enter there except when he resembles the cherubs.”
The MASACH, on the other hand, intervenes between the Mishkan and the courtyard,
the place of the Altar. That Altar atones for all sins that are committed as a
result of basic human weakness. The five sockets that support the MASACH
correspond to the five senses, and the copper (NECHOSHET) of the sockets are
suggestive of the snake (NACHASH) in the Garden of Eden. Man’s physical
formation is symbolized by the embroidered (ROKEM) work:
My substance was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret; I was wrought (RUKKAMTI)
in the lowest part of the earth (Tehillim 139:15).
In this way, the MASACH evokes the causes of sin: man’s physical nature, the
luring of the Yetzer Hara, and the effects of the senses. Keli Yakar concludes:
“One who gazes upon the form of the MASACH will understand and know that, due to
sin, permission is not given to everyone to gaze upon the place of holiness, as
it is said:
Your transgressions have separated between you and your G-d (Yeshaiahu 59:2).”
The MASACH bars man at all times from approaching sanctity before cleansing
himself of iniquity; the PAROCHET shows the way for man from holiness to even
greater holiness, on the angelic day of Yom Kippur. The MASACH is a barrier; the
PAROCHET is a transition,
“that which separates between the king and the people.”
The construction of the Mishkan serves as a constant reminder to us of the goals
of our existence: first to become holy, and then to become holier still.
In this week's parshah the Jewish people are instructed to
collect the materials for and begin the construction of the Mishkan, the
Tabernacle. It was a tremendous undertaking to build a "house" for the
Presence of God, an undertaking that, as God Himself later revealed to
Moshe Rabbeinu, required Divine assistance (Rashi, Shemot 39:33). Only
with the help of God does the impossible become possible, and sometimes,
it is only in hindsight that we are able to discern His hand in all that
we have succeeded in accomplishing.
We can speak about Eretz Yisrael in the same way. To return to a barren
land after 2000 years of exile, and to transform what had become a virtual
wasteland into living habitations and an advanced country – and all this
in less than 60 years – is nothing short of a great miracle. This is
especially true given all the obstacles along the way and opposition from
the rest of the world.
Amazingly, the land has developed not only physically, but spiritually as
well. At the center of the spiritual world is the Western Wall, recovered
during the miraculous 6-Day War, and a draw for Jews from all over the
world. As one drives from community to community, it is astounding how
many synagogues and Torah study halls have been built over the years.
And, as long as we keep our ultimate national goal in mind, to build a
"house" in which the Presence of God may rest, then we can expect
additional miracles that will further develop this country into a place to
which ALL Jews will wish to return. We will be able to make a gift (terumah)
to God from the very gift that He first gave to us, as the Jews did in
this week's parshah when they contributed to the Mishkan.
Rabbi Pinchas Winston
*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