Parshat Vayakhel -
The Mishkan: A Perpetuation of Ma'amad Har Sinai

Does Parshat Vayakhel simply repeat Parshat Terumah?

Certainly, the details of the various "keilim" (accessories in the Mishkan) are practically identical in both parshiot. Their order of presentation, however, differs slightly from one parasha to the next. In this week's shiur, we consider the different purposes of these two parshiot in order to explain the reason for (and significance of) these differences.

The basic difference between Terumah and Vayakhel is quite simple. Recall that Parshat Terumah records God's commandment to Moshe concerning the laws of the Mishkan. Now, in Parshat Vayakhel, Moshe conveys these mitzvot to Bnei Yisrael.

Let's explain how this affects their order.

The Order in Parshat Terumah
As we explained in our shiur on Parshat Tezaveh, God's instructions to Moshe focus on the function and purpose of the Mishkan, and they therefore open with its 'statement of purpose':

"And you shall build for Me a Mikdash in order that I shall dwell among you."
(see 25:8 and its 'bookend' in 29:45)
(See Board #1.) This introduction is followed by the description of the Mishkan's accessories and their respective functions: After ordering the construction of these items, God then commands Moshe to build the structure to house them - "yeriot hamishkan," the "kerashim" etc. (see 26:1-37). This discussion comes after the presentation of the aron, shulchan and menorah since this structure serves only a secondary function.

The Order in Parshat Vayakhel
In contrast, when Moshe conveys these instructions to Bnei Yisrael in Parshat Vayakhel, he follows a practical sequence:

(See Board #2.) Although this distinction explains the discrepancy in sequence between Terumah and Vayakhel, we must still justify the Torah's repetition of the minute details of the Mishkan. After all, building the Mishkan was only a 'one-time' mitzvah. Would it not have been sufficient for the Torah to simply tell us that Bnei Yisrael constructed the Mishkan 'as God commanded Moshe on Har Sinai?'

Furthermore, why does the Sh'china aspect of the Mishkan - so prominent a theme in Parshat Terumah - appear to be missing from Parshat Vayakhel?

To answer these questions, we must return to our study of the overall theme of Sefer Shmot.

The Mishkan Exclusive
Recall that Moshe ascends Har Sinai for the first forty days in order to receive the "Luchot, Torah, and Mitzvah" (Shmot 24:12). From among the myriad of mitzvot Moshe receives during these forty days, Sefer Shmot (in the chapters that follow - 25-31) records only those mitzvot applying to the Mishkan.

Likewise, when Moshe descends from Har Sinai after the last forty days, the Torah informs us that he conveyed all the mitzvot to Bnei Yisrael at that time (see 34:32). Nonetheless, Sefer Shmot chooses to record only Moshe's transmission of the mitzvot concerning the Mishkan (i.e. chapters 35-40). All the other mitzvot appear only later, in Vayikra, Bamidbar and Devarim (see Chizkuni 34:32)!

Why does the second half of Sefer Shmot focus exclusively on the Mishkan?

Ramban, in his explanation of the overall theme of Sefer Shmot, suggests an answer:

"... Sefer Shmot discusses the exile [i.e. the slavery in Egypt]... and Bnei Yisrael's redemption from that exile... for the descent of the children of Yaakov to Egypt marked the beginning of that exile... and that exile does not end until they return to the spiritual level of their forefathers... Even though Bnei Yisrael had left Egypt [i.e. physical redemption], they are not yet considered redeemed... [However,] when they reach Har Sinai and build the Mishkan, and God returns His Sh'china to dwell among them, then they have returned to the spiritual level of their forefathers [spiritual redemption]... Therefore, Sefer Shmot concludes with the topic of the Mishkan and the constant dwelling of God's Glory upon it [for this marks the completion of the Redemption process]." (see Ramban, introduction to Sefer Shmot)
According to Ramban, Sefer Shmot concludes with the story of the Mishkan because its construction marks the completion of Bnei Yisrael's redemption.

Spiritual Rehabilitation
Ramban's explanation can help us understand the manner in which the Torah repeats the details of the Mishkan in Parshiot Vayakhel/Pekudei.

Although Bnei Yisrael had already achieved 'spiritual redemption' at Ma'amad Har Sinai, this special level was lost as a result of Chet Ha'Egel. God had removed His Sh'china from Bnei Yisrael (see Shmot 33:1-7), effectively thwarting the redemption process.

Moshe Rabbeinu's intervention on Bnei Yisrael's behalf certainly saved them from destruction (32:11-14) and secured their atonement (32:30, 34:9). However, it could not restore Bnei Yisrael to the spiritual level achieved at Har Sinai. The Sh'china, which was to have resided in their midst, instead remained outside the camp (see 33:7).

God's thirteen 'attributes of mercy' (34:5-8) allowed Bnei Yisrael a 'second chance,' but the return of the Sh'china did not occur automatically. To bring the Sh'china back, Bnei Yisrael must do something; they must actively and collectively involve themselves in the process of building the Mishkan. [Compare "psol lecha shnei luchot" (34:1) to "v'haluchot ma'asei Elokim haymah" (32:16), "v'akmal."]

In other words, Bnei Yisrael require what we might call 'spiritual rehabilitation.' Their collective participation in the construction of the Mishkan can help repair the strain in their relationship with God brought about by Chet Ha'Egel. Or, using more 'kabalistic' terminology, the construction of the Mishkan functioned as a "tikun" for Chet Ha'Egel.

A closer examination of Parshiot Vayakhel/Pekudei supports this interpretation and answers our original question - the need to repeat all the details of the Mishkan's construction.

For example, The Torah's use of the word "Vayakhel" at the beginning of the Parsha brings to mind the opening line of the Chet Ha'Egel narrative:

"Vayikahel ha'am al Aharon - and the nation gathered against Aharon..." (32:1)
This new 'gathering' of the people, for the purpose of building the Mishkan, serves as a "tikun" for that original gathering to build the egel. As opposed to their assembly to fashion the golden calf, Bnei Yisrael now gather to build the proper symbol of God's presence.

Similarly, the commandment for the people to donate their gold and other belongings for this project (see 35:5) can be viewed as a "tikun" for Aharon's solicitation of the people's gold for the egel (32:2-3).

However, the strongest proof is the Torah's glaring repetition of the phrase: "ka'asher tzivah Hashem et Moshe" ["as God commanded Moshe"]. This phrase not only appears in both the opening commandment (35:1 and 35:4) and the finale (39:32 and 39:43), but it is repeated like a chorus over twenty times throughout Vayakhel-Pekudei, at every key point of the construction process. [I recommend that you note this using a Tanach Koren. See 35:29; 36:1; 36:5; 39:1,5,7,21,26,29,31,32,42,43; and especially in 40:16,19,21,23,25,27,29,32, as each part of the Mishkan is put into its proper place.]

Clearly, the Torah's repetition of this phrase is intentional, and may very well point to the Mishkan's function as a "tikun" for Chet Ha'Egel. Let's explain why:

Recall (see last week's shiur) that the people's initial intention at Chet Ha'Egel was to make a physical representation of their perception of God. Despite the innocence of such aspirations per se, a man-made representation, no matter how pure its intention, may lead to idol worship (see Shmot 20:19). This does not mean, however, that God cannot ever be represented by a physical symbol. When God Himself chooses the symbol, it is not only permitted, but it becomes a mitzvah. That is basically what the Mishkan/Mikdash is all about. [See 23:17,19; 34:24, Devarim 12:5,11 and 16:16.]

The Torah therefore stresses that Bnei Yisrael have now 'learned their lesson.' They construct the Mishkan precisely 'as God commanded Moshe,' down to the very last detail, understanding that there is no room for human innovation when choosing a symbol for His Divine Presence.

An Appropriate Finale
This concept of "tikun" for Chet Ha'Egel finds further support in the very conclusion of Sefer Shmot.

Although the aspect of Sh'china (a central feature in Terumah/Tezaveh) is mentioned nowhere throughout the detail of the Mishkan's construction in Vayakhel/Pekudei, it makes a sudden reappearance at the very end of the sefer. After each component of the Mishkan is put into place on the first of Nisan (see 40:1-33), this entire process reaches its dramatic climax:

"When Moshe had finished his work, the anan (cloud) covered the Ohel Mo'ed and God's Kavod ('Glory') filled the Mishkan." (40:34)
This pasuk describes the dwelling of the Sh'china on the Mishkan in the exact same terms used to depict the dwelling of the Sh'china on Har Sinai:
"When Moshe ascended the har [Mount Sinai, to receive the first luchot], the anan covered the har, and Kvod Hashem (God's glory) dwelled upon Har Sinai..." (24:15-16)
Clearly, the Torah intentionally parallels, thereby associating, the descent of the Sh'china onto Har Sinai with the dwelling of the Sh'china on the Mishkan. (See Board #3.) Only after Bnei Yisrael meticulously complete the construction of the Mishkan - precisely 'as God commanded Moshe' - does the Sh'china return to Bnei Yisrael and dwell therein (40:34), just as it had dwelled on Har Sinai.

Thus, the end of Sefer Shmot marks the completion of the "tikun" for Chet Ha'Egel. Accordingly, as Ramban posits, the entire 'redemption process' - the theme of Sefer Shmot - has also reached its culmination.

The Sh'china's return to the camp also signifies Bnei Yisrael's return to the stature they had lost after the golden calf. Recall that in the aftermath of that incident:

"Moshe took his tent and set it up outside the camp, far away from the camp, and called it the Ohel Mo'ed [tent of meeting (with God)], such that anyone who would search for God was required to go out to this Ohel Mo'ed, outside the camp." [see 33:7 and its context in 33:1-11]
This Ohel Mo'ed, located outside the camp, symbolized the distancing of the Sh'china. Once the Mishkan is built, God will bring His Sh'china back inside the camp. [See 25:8 and 29:45.]

Back to Breishit
Thus far, we have shown that the manner in which Bnei Yisrael construct the Mishkan serves as a "tikun" for Chet Ha'Egel and relates to the overall theme of Sefer Shmot.

One could suggest that the very concept of a Mishkan - irrespective of its mode of construction - may constitute a more general "tikun," beyond the specific context of the golden calf. In this sense, the Mishkan relates to a more general Biblical theme developed in Sefer Breishit.

As explained in our shiurim on Sefer Breishit, the Garden of Eden reflects the ideal spiritual environment in which Man cultivates his relationship with God. After Adam sinned and was consequently banished from the Garden, God placed Keruvim to guard the path of return to the Tree of Life (see Breishit 3:24).

It may not be coincidental that the Mishkan is the only other context throughout the entire Chumash where the concept of Keruvim appears. The Mishkan features Keruvim:

This parallel suggests a conceptual relationship between Gan Eden and the Mishkan. The symbolic function of the Keruvim as guardians of the Kodesh K'doshim may correspond to the Mishkan's function as an environment similar to Gan Eden, where man can strive to come closer to God: [Note that Keruvim are also woven into the innermost covering of the Mishkan (see Shmot 26:1-2).]

In this sense, we may view the Mishkan as a "tikun" for Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden. Should man wish to return to the Tree of Life, he must keep God's covenant - the laws of the Torah - as symbolized by the Luchot Ha'Eidut in the Aron, protected by the Keruvim.

Virtual ClassRoom enhancements by Reuven Weiser.

For Further Iyun
A. An Important Clarification
It is important that we clarify this "tikun" aspect of the Mishkan.

We do not claim that the Mishkan itself constitutes a "tikun" for Chet Ha'Egel. Rather, the manner by which Bnei Yisrael must build it serves as a "tikun." Consequently, our analysis here stands independent of the controversy between Rashi and Ramban as to when God commanded the building of the Mishkan. As we explained in our shiur on Parshat Terumah, Ramban (Mishkan commanded before Chet Ha'Egel) and Rashi (Mishkan commanded after Chet Ha'Egel) argue only whether the need for a temporary Mishkan resulted from Chet Ha'Egel. However, Rashi must agree that the basic concept of a Mikdash is necessary to perpetuate the experience of Har Sinai, just as Ramban in Parshat Vayakhel must agree that the manner in which Bnei Yisrael ultimately construct the Mishkan reflects their correction of the sin of Chet Ha'Egel.

B. 'Sh'china Tamid'
We stated that Terumah/Tezaveh describes the function of each object in the Mishkan. It may be suggested that the actual function of each "kli" relates to the constant presence of the Sh'china in the Mishkan.

Board #4 demonstrates the three levels of "kedusha" in the Mishkan, according to the functions of the accessories contained in the three regions of the Mishkan:

The Kodesh K'doshim contains the luchot, the eternal testament to the covenant at Har Sinai. God speaks to Moshe from in between the Keruvim (25:21-22), thus perpetuating the Har Sinai experience. In this domain, God 'comes down' to man; as such, no "avodah" (ritual) is performed.

Outside this domain, in the "Kodesh," the kohanim perform they daily Avodat Tamid - lighting the menorah, offering the ktoret and keeping bread on the shulchan.

Outside the Mishkan is the "chatzer" (courtyard). Here, Am Yisrael collectively offer their Korban Tamid on the Mizbayach.

[See shiur on Parshat Tezaveh for a complete analysis.]

Significantly, each 'kli' requires an "avodat tamid." The word "tamid" means everlasting or continuous. Am Yisrael must perform their daily "avodat tamid" in order to deserve the continuous presence of the Sh'china.

A relationship with God does not come automatically; it requires constant effort on the individual's part.

C. Beyond the parallels between the Mishkan and Gan Eden (as noted in the shiur), there exist as well textual parallels between the Mishkan and the story of Creation in the first perek of Sefer Breishit. For example, "va'teychel kol avodat haMishkan..." (39:32) and "va'yar Moshe et kol ham'lacha..." (39:43) correspond to Breishit 1:31 and 2:1. Indeed, several Midrashim view the Mishkan as the completion of the Creation process.

D. The highest level of "hitgalut," experienced by Moshe (33:11) and Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai (Dvarim 5:4), is known as "panim b'fanim" - literally, face to face. When God 'changed' His attributes to "midot harachamim" (Shmot 33:17-34:9), He states that man can no longer see His 'face,' only His 'back' (33:20-23). E. The Theme of Sefer Shmot
Throughout our study of Sefer Shmot, we traced three primary topics: Based on the above shiur, we can suggest a fundamental relationship between these three sections: An important pasuk in Parshat Tezaveh highlights this overall theme. As explained in our shiur on that parasha, chapters 25-29, which appear amidst God's instructions regarding the Mishkan, form a distinct unit which we may call the 'Sh'china unit' (compare 25:8 with 29:45). (See Board #1.)

The closing pasuk of that unit - "And I shall dwell among the people of Israel, and I will be their God" (29:45) - is followed by an important summary pasuk:

"And you shall know that I am the Lord your God who took you out of the Land of Egypt - l'shochni b'tocham - in order to dwell among you; I am the Lord your God." (29:46)
This pasuk accurately reflects the overall theme of Sefer Shmot. It ties together (1) Yetziat Mitzraim, (2) Matan Torah, and (3) the Mishkan with the concept of "Shchina." God takes Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt in order that they become His nation, And this relationship reaches its highest level with the presence of the "Shchina." This level was attained at Har Sinai, and it forever remains within Bnei Yisrael's reach through the 'heir' and closest substitute to Har Sinai - the Mishkan.

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