Parshat Tezaveh -
The Special Structure of Parshiot HaMishkan

(To prepare for this shiur,
see the questions for self study.)

Who stole the Mizbach HaK'toret?

In case you didn't notice, it seems as though the Mizbach HaK'toret was 'stolen' from the beginning of Parshat Terumah and 'hidden away' in the end of Parshat Tezaveh!

To understand why, this week's shiur examines the internal structure of Parshiot Terumah/Tezaveh and its significance.

Parshiot Terumah and Tezaveh (25:1-30:10) comprise a distinct unit of mitzvot detailing the construction of the Mishkan. This unit is often referred to as "Tzivui HaMishkan" - the commandment to build the Mishkan [in contrast to Parshiot Vayakhel/Pekudei, which describe its actual construction].

At first glance, the internal arrangement of this unit appears logical. It begins by describing the most sacred object in the Mishkan - the Aron, which was situated in the innermost sanctuary of the Mishkan (25:10-22). The unit then continues with the accessories located in the Ohel Moed (main sanctuary - 25:23-26:37) and concludes with the Mizbach Ha'Olah, which was placed in the Chatzer (outer courtyard; chapter 27). Then, after having outlined all the various items and their equipment (chapters 25-27), this unit concludes with the description of the bigdei kehuna - the special garments of the kohanim (chapter 28) - and the miluim - the special procedures for the seven day dedication ceremony (chapter 29).

However, upon studying this unit a little more carefully, we find several "parshiot" that appear out of place. [As usual,] our shiur will first analyze this progression and then attempt to uncover its significance.

The Logical Flow and Its Exceptions
Board #1 summarizes Parshiot Terumah/Tezaveh. Note that this entire unit is introduced by one dibur (i.e. "vaydaber Hashem el Moshe..." - 25:1). This dibur thus includes all the mitzvot of this unit, i.e. all of God's commandments to Moshe until the next dibur, at the beginning of Parshat Ki-Tisa (30:11).

In the chart, we use three colors to signify the type of flow from one parsha to the next. Blue indicates an introductory or concluding pasuk; green indicates a parsha that follows in logical order; red denotes a parsha that appears to be 'out of order.' I recommend that you review this chart carefully and follow it with a Tanach Koren (or similar) in hand. To view the psukim in the text window on your screen, click on the italicized references in the chart.

[The first parsha that appears 'out of order' is that of the commandment to light the menorah. A priori, we would have expected to find this parsha with the discussion of the Menorah. (See Board #2.) The final portion of the shiur offers a reason for its placement here.]

By studying this chart, you can easily understand our opening question. The most striking exception to the logical flow of this unit is the Mizbach HaK'toret. Given its location - inside the Mishkan together with the Shulchan and Menorah - we would have expected to find the Torah's discussion of the Mizbach HaK'toret together with those two. Instead, it was left out of Parshat Terumah, not appearing until the very end of this unit. (See Board #3.) [To verify this, see the parallel mention of these vessels in Parshat Va'yakhel - 35:13-15, 37:10-29, and 39:35-39.]

Furthermore, not only is the Mizbach HaK'toret out of place, it is not recorded until after the summary psukim! Let's explain:

Note the two 'matching' psukim at the beginning and end of Terumah/Tezaveh:

Start: 25:8 - "...v'asu li Mikdash "v'shachanti b'tocham..."

End: 29:45 - "v'shachanti b'toch Bnei Yisrael..."

As identified in Board #4, these two psukim - one in the introduction and one in the summary - act as 'matching bookends' enclosing the entire unit. These 'bookends' reflect the purpose of the Mishkan: to serve as a vehicle through which God's Sh'china can dwell among His people.

Thus, not only is Mizbach HaK'toret out of place, it is left outside the 'Sh'china bookends' - the textual framework of this entire unit of Tzivui HaMishkan! Why?

Back to Har Sinai
To answer this question, we must return to the conceptual parallel between the Mishkan and Har Sinai, as explicated by Ramban:

"...the hidden purpose ["sod"] of the Mishkan is for God's Glory which dwelled ("shachan") on Har Sinai to dwell upon it..." (Ramban on 25:1; see last week's shiur)
According to Ramban, it is not by chance that the 'bookends' of this Tzivui HaMishkan unit emphasize the dwelling of God's Sh'china within the Mishkan. This constitutes the very purpose of the Mishkan - to perpetuate the Sinai experience!

This purpose is reflected by numerous parallels between Ma'amad Har Sinai and the Mishkan. For example:

While these parallels are obvious, a more subtle relationship exists between Har Sinai and the Mizbach HaK'toret in particular. Understanding this specific correspondence will help explain why the Torah saves this altar's description for the very end of the Tzivui HaMishkan unit.

Three Mechitzot
One of the most striking parallels between the Mishkan and Har Sinai relates to the concept of mechitzot - boundaries. At Har Sinai, the people must remain at the foot of the mountain while the kohanim are permitted to come a bit closer. Only Moshe (and possibly Aharon) is granted access to the top of the mountain (see 19:20-24). (See Board #5.)

Similarly, the people may proceed only as far as the outer courtyard of the Mishkan (where the Mizbach Ha'Olah is located). The kohanim are allowed into the Kodesh (where the Shulchan and Menorah are located), and only Moshe (and possibly Aharon) enters the Kodesh HaK'doshim (where the Aron and Keruvim are located). (See Board #6.)

[Additionally, Bnei Yisrael may enter the courtyard only after first purifying themselves, just as a purification process was required in preparation for Ma'amad Har Sinai.]

How does the Mizbach HaK'toret fit into all this?

As we discussed in our shiur on Parshat Yitro, a certain dialectic characterized Bnei Yisrael's encounter with the Sh'china at Har Sinai. Ideally, Bnei Yisrael should have heard the commandments directly from God ['Panim B'fanim']. However, mortal man is incapable of withstanding such an experience (see Dvarim 5:4-5,20-25). Therefore, to protect Bnei Yisrael from the inevitable, disastrous consequences of such an encounter, God found it necessary to cover Har Sinai with a cloud:

"Behold I am coming to you b'av ha'anan - in the thickness of a cloud - in order that they can hear as I speak to you..." (19:9)

"...And Har Sinai was full of smoke ["ashan"], for God had come down upon it with fire..." (See 19:17-18 and shiur on Parshat Yitro.)

The cloud on Har Sinai effectively served as a buffer between Bnei Yisrael at the foot of the mountain and God's revelation at the top of the mountain.

One could suggest that the Mizbach HaK'toret serves a similar function. Situated in the Kodesh, its cloud of smoke, which arises when the k'toret is placed on the smoldering coals on the altar (see Vayikra 16:13), acts as a buffer between Bnei Yisrael standing in the Chatzer (courtyard) and God dwelling in the Kodesh K'doshim. (See Board #7!)

This interpretation of the purpose of the Mizbach HaK'toret is supported by two key psukim that describe the relationship between the Mizbach Ha'Olah, Mizbach HaK'toret, and the Kodesh K'doshim. The first pasuk stresses the connection between the Mizbach Ha'Olah and the Ohel Mo'ed:

"[The daily offering on the Mizbach Ha'Olah constitutes an] olat tamid [eternal olah] for all generations, at the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed ... from where I will meet you and speak to you..." (29:42)
In the second pasuk we find explicit instructions to place the Mizbach HaK'toret in between those two - along this very same axis that connects the Mizbach Ha'Olah with the Kodesh K'doshim:
"And you shall place it in front of the Parochet, which is over the Aron Ha'Eidut, in front of the Kaporet upon the Eidut - from where I will meet with you..." (30:6)
A 'Protected' Divine Encounter
These psukim reflect the 'covenantal encounter' that takes place in the Mishkan and corresponds to the encounter at Har Sinai. Each party leaves its 'natural' state: God 'comes down' from the heavens, as it were, to the Kodesh K'doshim, and Am Yisrael arises from the camp, as it were, and stands in the Chatzer.

In between the two lies the Kodesh section of the Ohel Mo'ed - the 'tent of meeting.' Whereas this area serves as a buffer between God and Bnei Yisrael, k'toret must be offered each time the kohen enters to perform his service. The k'toret creates an anan [cloud of smoke], which acts as a buffer to 'protect' the kohen when he enters the kodesh:

"And Aharon shall offer the k'toret daily, in the morning before tending to the menorah, and when lighting the menorah in the evening..." (30:7-8)
A Necessary Afterthought
One could suggest that by placing the commandment to build the Mizbach HaK'toret after the summary psukim at the very end of this unit, the Torah alludes to its unique function in this covenantal encounter. After first completing its description of the ideal encounter between God and Bnei Yisrael in the Mishkan (29:45-46), the Torah immediately records the mitzvah of the Mizbach HaK'toret, which protects Bnei Yisrael. Realistically, they may not be worthy of the ideal encounter, and thus the Mizbach HaK'toret must come into play. (See Board #8.)

[Note the similarity between the nature of this 'protected encounter' in the Mishkan and what we referred to in our shiur on Parshat Yitro as 'Plan A,' by which God speaks to Moshe while 'covered by a cloud' so that the people can only overhear their conversation. See Shmot 19:9! See also Devarim 5:5.]

The Ktoret Unit
Up until this point, we have treated Parshiot Terumah/Tezaveh as one, integrated unit, as indicated by the single dibur that introduces these parshiot. Recall, however, from last week's shiur that Terumah/Tezaveh is part of the larger unit of Tzivui HaMishkan, which extends beyond merely these two parshiot. Board #9 reviews the structure of the second half of Sefer Shmot.

As you can see, our unit includes part of Parshat Ki-Tisa. Therefore, to fully understand this larger unit of Tzivui HaMishkan (B), we must examine the remaining parshiot in the beginning of Ki-Tisa (30:11-31:17). They contain several other mitzvot concerning the Mishkan which were also left out of the 'Sh'china' unit, and thus may shed light on our previous discussion.

If we list these parshiot in order, we find once again a set of 'bookends,' as shown in Board #10. We can now see how the Mizbach HaK'toret, on one end, and the mitzvah to make the k'toret, on the other, delineate a second unit, which contains several peripheral commandments regarding the Mishkan.

[At this point, the laws concerning the Mishkan end. Chapter 31 discusses the appointment of Bezallel to build the Mishkan and the prohibition to work on Shabbat (to preclude the possible, mistaken notion that work for the Mishkan on Shabbat is permissible). Whereas these do not involve laws directly relating to the construction of the Mishkan and its accessories, we have omitted them from this table.]

A Parallel Structure
An amazing parallel structure exists between this second, 'K'toret' unit and the previous 'Sh'china' unit. Namely, each peripheral commandment in the k'toret unit corresponds to a related mitzvah in the Sh'china unit! Board #11 illustrates this parallel (removing the introductory and summary psukim).

The mitzvot found in the Sh'china unit, which focus on God's "hitgalut" in the Mishkan, are complemented by the mitzvot in the k'toret unit, which focuses on the need to protect Bnei Yisrael from the Sh'china.

All the mitzvot in the K'toret unit emphasize either "kapara" (see shiur on Yom Kippur, where we explained "kapara" as reflecting protection from God's "hitgalut") or warn of impending death if not performed properly (see 30:10; 30:12; 30:21; 30:33; 30:38). Protection is required from the potential punishment enacted should man not prepare himself properly for this encounter in the Mishkan. [See Devarim 5:21-23!]

A Full Time Job
We conclude this week's shiur by returning to the opening psukim of Parshat Tezaveh, which involve the mitzvah to light the Menorah.

Recall from Board #2 that the mitzvah to light the Menorah (27:20-21) appears out of place. If we follow the logic of the structure of the Sh'china unit, it should have been recorded together with the mitzvah to build the Menorah (just as the mitzvah to offer the Lechem HaPanim is included with the mitzvah to build the Shulchan - see 25:30).

Nevertheless, the Torah transfers these psukim from chapter 25 and juxtaposes them with the mitzvah to make the bigdei kehuna (chapter 28). Why?

One could suggest that in doing so, the Torah alludes to a more important role of the kohanim. Aside from the honor and glory of their position, as reflected by their special garments (see 28:2), their primary job is to 'spread the light' of Torah - the message of the Mishkan, as represented by the Aron Ha'Eidut at its focal point - to Bnei Yisrael. (See Board #12.)

It is this mitzvah of the kohanim, to disseminate the Torah, which is defined as a "chukat olam l'doroteichem - an everlasting law for all generations" (27:21). Even when the Mikdash lay in ruins, this mitzvah forever remains the obligation of our religious leaders.

Virtual ClassRoom enhancements by Reuven Weiser.

For Further Iyun
1. Be sure to see Ramban on 30:1, where he explains why the Mizbach HaK'toret is at the end of the unit. See also Seforno and Chizkuni. Relate these approaches to our analysis of this unit in the above shiur.

2. In our discussion of the overall structure (See Board #9), we noted that (B) comprises the complete unit of Tzivui HaMishkan. Note that this complete unit includes seven "dibur"s. [A 'dibur' is each time the Torah introduces God's speech to Moshe with, "Vaydaber Hashem el Moshe lay'mor" or "va'yomer ...", etc.] [See 25:1, 30:11, 30:17, 30:22, 30:34, 31:1, and 31:12.]

One could view these "dibur"s as allusions to the seven days of creation. The first dibur, covering the entire Sh'china unit, may reflect the concept of God's creation of light/Sh'china (see Rashi on Breishit 1:3). The next four deal with other mitzvot of the Mishkan. [Admittedly, they don't work out as good as the rest.]

The sixth dibur describes the appointment of Bezallel to build the Mishkan. This may parallel God's creation of man on the sixth day. Just as man in Creation [Perek Aleph] was to master the material world and utilize his God-given talents towards a divine purpose, so must Bezallel organize the materials collected and use his God-given talents to oversee the construction of the Mishkan. To do so, he requires "ruach Elokim" (31:3 - relate to the creation of man "b'tzelem Elokim").

The seventh dibur is the mitzvah to keep Shabbat! (See 31:15.) This may serve as the basis for the many Midrashim which describe the Mishkan as the pinnacle of the creation process. This reflects, once again, the biblical theme that the natural world needs to be directed towards a divine purpose. This is the duty of man not only in the Mishkan, but also throughout his daily life as well.

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