Pekudei: Returning Home

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House Puzzle
17 Mar 2009

Everyone knows that the Mishkan is God’s house. To Ramban however, it is also home.

Consider: if there are “three partners in the creation of Man: God, the father, and the mother” [Kiddushin 30b], then the Mishkan, our national abode and the place of that dynamic partnership, must resonate the subtle influence of ALL our parents. In Ramban’s beautiful formulation:

When Bnei Yisrael came to Sinai and made the Mishkan and Hashem caused His Divine presence to dwell, they returned to [the status of] their fathers. Ha’avos hein hein hamerkavah. The Patriarchs [and Matriarchs] – they are the chariot.

A chariot in the sense of a Divine conduit; within our Avos (fathers) and Imahos (mothers) reside the necessary spiritual DNA for molding all future Jewish generations.

Let us search for them in the Holy confines of the mishkan:

1. Sarah and Rivkah

a. Three constant miracles adorned Sarah and Rivkah’s tent [Bereishit Rabah 60]

You find that as long as Sarah lived, a cloud hung over her tent; when she died, that cloud disappeared; … when Rebekah came, it returned … there was a blessing in her dough, and the lamp used to burn from the evening of the Sabbath until the evening of the following Sabbath; when she died, these ceased, but when Rebekah came, they returned.

Three miracles: the continuous cloud, constant candle and the ever-present blessing in the dough all find direct parallels in the Mishkan existence in the form of the ner tamid, the lechem hapanim and the ananaei hakavod that hovered above the mishkan. Remarkably the word tamid, the classic Torah term to describe constancy and consistency is employed for all three of these Mishkan miracles (1) – resonating Sarah and Rivkah’s spiritual energy.

2. Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov

a. … are easily found in the essential utensils. Avraham, paragon of chesed can be found in the shulchan, the table that represents the kindness(2) of giving – reminiscent of the midrashic depiction of Avraham’s largesse. A remarkable Rabbeinu Bechaye (1265-1340) records the stunning custom of the pious Jews of France to make their coffin from the wood of their dining room tables. Long after the guests have left and the food is gone, the symbolism of the table and its accompanying kindnesses sustain our people.

b. Yitzchak, hearkening back to the Akedah, represents the pure divine service of the mizbeaich (altar). Indeed, various midrashim depict Yitzchak’s “ashes” as remaining atop the altar(3), a deep notion that minimally serves to explicitly link Yitzchak with the altar.

c. Yaakov, the paragon tent dweller represents the Aron and its Torah(4). Thus Yeshayahu [2:3] calls the beis hamikdash the house of Jacob’s God – for the Ark was its vessel par excellence(5). Indeed Rambam(6) implies that without the ark, there could be no sanctity in the Temple; thus even in the second Temple, the Ark was there, just hidden from the masses.

3. But where do we find Rachel and Leah?

a. Here we move to two incredible comments by Rashi. In both, he notes the interesting shidduch between two tribes who forge a bond to engineer the mishkan and [beit ha] mikdash. Betzalel and Oholiav build the mishkan while Shlomo and Chiram construct the Temple. Betzalel and Shlomo hearken from the tribe of Yehuda while Oholiav and Chiram are connected to Dan. Herein, Rashi’s comments:

1.He was from the Tribe of Dan, of the lowliest of the Tribes, one of the sons of [Yaakov’s] maidservants. Yet G-d equates him to Betzalel … and he (Betzalel) is from the greatest of the Tribes … to fulfill …: He does not recognize the rich over the poor.[Rashi, Shemot 35]

2. Chiram’s mother was from Dan and father from Naftoli and why does the text relate his yichus (lineage) …Rachel said: If Leah shall glorify herself with her son who shall build the mishkan [Betzalel], then he will have to be accompanied with the son of Dan and if the son of my sister, [Shlomo] will build it, then he shall be accompanied by the son of Dan and Naftali [Chiram] [Rashi, Divrei HaYamim 2, 2:23]

Much in the midrash baffles and yet a significant message emerges: The mishkan architects represent yichus (lineage) and lack thereof, embodying the idea that status/stock is ultimately insignificant in one’s personal relationship with God. Rachel and Leah, in their complex dynamic with Yaakov also occupy different positions. First, Rachel is beloved and Leah is senuah. Ultimately, Leah emerges with the bulk of the tribes, the kingdom, the priesthood, and is buried with Yaakov in Chevron. She becomes the prime matriarch. No lesser yichus can exist than being Rachel’s maidservant, Bilhah – who has two children Dan and Naftali. The mishkan/mikdash is the product of that Yehuda-Dan-Naftali combination – teaching that in the end, yichus is only good enough to get you there. One endowed with it dare not be complacent while no excuses can cover the one born without it.

As he lay on his death bed, the great sage Akavya [ben Mahalalel]’s son pleads to his father to put in a good word to the Sages on his behalf. Akavya’s final words “your deeds shall bring you close, your deeds will keep you afar” teach his son the ultimate lesson that as one comes home, hoping to find solace in a mama or a papa, there is no room to hide – for they are ultimately on their own.

In Sarah and Rivkah we find the need for constant and consistent spirituality; Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov direct us to the core areas of spiritual focus. Rachel and Leah remind us that in the ultimate scheme of things, spirituality is yours for the making.

As Jews who regularly frequent God’s (mini) house, it would serve us well to remember not to leave the lessons of home at the door.

Good Shabbos

1. שמות פרק כה (ל) ונתת על השלחן לחם פנים לפני תמיד שמות פרק כז (כ) ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור להעלת נר תמיד: במדבר פרק ט (טו) וביום הקים את המשכן כסה הענן את המשכן לאהל העדת ובערב … (טז) כן יהיה תמיד הענן יכסנו ומראה אש לילה
2. ספר קדושת לוי – לקוטים זה שאמרו רבותינו ז”ל שלחן בצפון ומנורה בדרום, דהנה כל ההשפעות והחסדים והרחמים הבאים לזה העולם נקראים שלחן וזהו הוא בצפו
3. ילקוט שמעוני דברי הימים א – פרק כב – רמז תתרפ ויאמר דוד זה הוא בית ה’ האלהים וזה מזבח לעולה,.. בשלמא בית מנכרא צורתו, אלא מזבח מנא ידעי, א”ר אלעזר ראו מזבח בנוי ומיכאל השר הגדול מקריב עליו, ור’ יצחק נפחא אמר אפרו של יצחק ראו צבור ומונח באותו מקום
4. רבינו בחיי על בראשית פרק כח פסוק יג -והנה ה’ נצב עליו – ע”ד הפשט על הסולם. וע”ד הקבלה עליו על יעקב, והמשילו הכתוב לכרוב שכתוב בו (תהלים יח) וירכב על כרוב ויעוף, כי האבות הם הם המרכבה כדוגמת כרובים של מעלה. וכבר ידעת כי יעקב נקרא קטן. ואמרו חכמי האמת בענין הכרובים אפי רברבי ואפי זוטרי.. והנני מאיר עיני לבך כי צורת יעקב חקוקה בכסא הכבוד ומזה אמר הכתוב (בראשית כה) יושב אהלים, אהלי מעלה ומטה. ומפורש מזה תמצא במתן תורה (שמות כד) ויראו את אלהי ישראל ותחת רגליו, ב לרמוז ישראל תחת רגליו. וזהו שאמר בפרשה הזאת התחת אלהים אנכי, שלא בתמיה, והבן זה
5. Cf. Ramban [Shemos, 38:21]who teaches that the mishkan haeidus (tabernacle of testimony) is so named after the luchos haeidus (tabkets of testimony) further enforcing the notionthat the Aron was the cenral theme of the mishkan/mikdash
6. רמב”ם בית הבחירה ד:א – אבן היתה בקדש הקדשים במערבו שעליה היה הארון מונח ולפניו צנצנת המן ומטה אהרן ובעת שבנה שלמה את הבית וידע שסופו ליחרב בנה בו מקום לגנוז בו הארון למטה במטמוניות עמוקות ועקלקלות ויאשיהו המלך צוה וגנזו במקום שבנה שלמה … שנאמר ויאמר ללוים המבינים לכל ישראל הקדושים ליי’ תנו את ארון הקדש בבית אשר בנה שלמה בן דויד מלך ישראל … וגו’ ונגנז עמו מטה אהרן והצנצנת ושמן המשחה וכל אלו לא חזרו בבית שני

Rabbi Asher Brander is the Rabbi of the Westwood Kehilla, Founder/Dean of LINK (Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel) and is a Rebbe at Yeshiva University High Schools of Los Angeles

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.