Trumah: Moshe’s Mishkan

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    • Tzvi Chulsky 2 years ago

      The parshiot of Trumah and Tetzaveh describe the Mishkan; it takes both parshiot to paint a “complete” picture of an idealized[1] Mishkan[2]. Trumah, which by its very name oozes “voluntariness,” taken by itself, describes almost the entirety of the Mishkan structure. Taking this parashah alone, however, it feels different from the “complete” picture: it is empty of people, completely open to one who walks in. One can pass through the courtyard, past the altar (only one for now), enter the tent, pass between the table with the showbread on the right and the Menorah on the left, and arrive at the curtain with the cherubim, the guards at the boundary between different worlds[3]. It is behind this curtain that God communicates with us, through the space between the cherubim on the lid of the Ark. The name of Aharon is not mentioned a single time in Trumah; we will BE”H discuss more of the significance of this next week.

      This is “Moshe’s Mishkan,” with no obligatory attendance, open at all times to simply walk in and speak to God directly, with nothing in between. There is no talk of sins or tum’ah; “this” Mishkan is all about closeness to God, and the entrant is “assumed” to be in a pure state in which he desires it and is ready to achieve it[4]. It is an accessible Sinai on Earth, Sinai extended in time to help us to continue to hear the voice of God, to understand the essence and nature of the world. We will later see the entry to the Holy of Holies restricted to one day per year; but in this parashah, where sins play no role and the Mishkan is about communication, that entry appears unrestricted.

      And indeed, there is, in many ways, nothing stopping us. Once we reach the desire to communicate with God (the altar), we can enter the tent. What we need at that point is economic success (the showbread table[5]) and wisdom and enlightenment (the Menorah), and we need to pass between them—a balance of the two is very important. Actual communication with God, of course, remains behind an opaque curtain; but it is a curtain and not a wall, designed for the possibility of moving it aside and passing through.

      When we think of the Temple, we often think about sins, and bringing offerings after sinning. But after the Temple was destroyed, our Sages, in creating new rituals to take the place of Temple services during our exile, appear to have focused significantly on “Moshe’s Mishkan.” Entering shul, one physically finds no korbanot, no kohanim dressed in special clothes; but one finds an ark, behind a curtain that, at the very least on Mondays, Thursdays and Shabbos, gets moved aside. The ark is opened, the Torah inside taken out and read. The emotion of the service in the shul is not derived from æsthetics, but based primarily on words, many of them spoken independently by each participant[6].

      Perhaps this symbolizes the idea that in galut, we are in some sense like Moshe: we received the Torah directly from God, but we are כבדים פה וכבדים לשון—inarticulate. We do not spread—indeed, are not capable of spreading—Torah to the world while we are a galut nation, with Moshe’s Mishkan only. We have an enviable direct connection, but we cannot, with this aspect alone, be the ממלכת כהנים that we are destined to be.

      Moshe has a direct connection to God, but without Aharon, he does not have the ability to speak to the public in ways that they understand[7]. Our Sages seem to have understood that in galut, we as a people were to be in an analogous position—able to speak to God directly, but not able to express our vision to the nations of the world in a way that would get across to them, much less excite them.

      Next week we will BE”H discuss a very different vision of the Mishkan, which may contain within it hints of how to address this issue. But in the meantime, let us celebrate what we have, and what the Sages realized we have. Among other things, they created blessings for us to say throughout our day; the vast majority of these begins with ברוך אתה ה’. How often do we think about the fact that we are addressing God in the second person? Rav Simcha L. Weinberg tells about how his grandfather, Rav Y.Y. Ruderman, trembled when he would say the word אתה. Throughout history, it was often uncomfortable, or even frightening, to refer to a duke or lord as “you.” And yet the Sages told us to refer to God that way around 100 times daily[8].

      Next time we utter a blessing, let us pause on the word אתה, and consider what it means that we are saying this.

      The idea of Moshe’s Mishkan is a fairly well-documented and discussed idea, espoused, among others, by Rav Y.L. Ashkenazi

      [1] The “actual” Earthly manifestation of the Mishkan is described at the end of Shmot, in parshiot Vayakhel and Pkudei.
      [2] Very notably missing the כיור, the washbasin, which is not mentioned until Shmot 30:18
      [3] See Breishit 3:24
      [4] See, incidentally, Bamidbar 12
      [5] See, e.g., Rav S.R. Hirsch
      [6] Singing is only episodic, and plays at most a very secondary role.
      [7] Moshe overcomes this at the end of his life with the composition of the book of Dvarim, but we are not there yet.
      [8] 100 is the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch’s recommended minimum number of brachot per day.

    • hindy 2 years ago

      test reply it is

      Test Quote it is

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