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Parshat Vayakhel - 5765

In the parshot of "Terumah" and "Tetzaveh" we were commanded regarding the building of the Mishkan in lengthy and exact detail, and in the parshot of "Vayakel" and "Pekudei" the Torah tells of the actual performance, again in great detail. The question is asked why the Torah feels the need to go over in such lengthy detail the making of the Mishkan and its vessels, rather than making do with a general statement that the children of Israel did exactly as Hashem commanded.


Furthermore, it says in the beginning of the parsha, "And every wise-hearted person amongst you shall come and do all that Hashem has commanded. The Mishkan, its tent and its cover, and its clasps and its boards and its bars and its pillars and its sockets" (Shemot, xxxv, 10-11). Afterwards the Torah lists the other vessels (albeit without specifying their exact measurement). This is difficult to understand – why does the Torah specify the Mishkan and its vessels three times?


Between the parshot dealing with the command and those dealing with its performance, the parsha of "Ki Tissa" appears, which deals with the sin of the Golden Calf. According to the Tanchuma, the parsha beginning "And they shall make me a sanctuary and I shall dwell amongst them" was said to Moshe on Yom Kippur itself. Even though the parsha of the Mishkan appears before the incident of the Calf (i.e. in the order of the chapters in Torah), "Said Rabbi Yehudah bar Rabbi Shalom: There is no early or late in the Torah" (Terumah 8). The Midrash Rabbah also implies that the sin of the Calf preceded the command of the Mishkan, for it explains the pasuk "'I am asleep, yet my heart is awake' – I am asleep as a result of the incident of the Calf, yet my heart is awake and Hakadosh Baruch Hu encloses above me" (meaning - knocks so that I should open for Him and bring Him home, into the Mishkan – Etz Yosef) (32:3). As is well-known, even though there is no early or late in the Torah we must nonetheless explain why the Torah chose to change the order and position the command regarding the Mishkan before the Calf.

It appears that these questions can be answered though a clarification of the connection and relationship between the great, abstract ideals and their practical establishment. Rav Kook writes: "A gap must necessarily exist between the content of the abstract ideal of the purpose of everything and between what is revealed from it in practice in the present…were it not for this qualitative separation the entire shape of all being would be blurred, existence would be unable to keep its shape, laws and borders would not be preserved, and fixed characteristics and limited values that founded the world and all that is in it would not stand firm" (Orot, p. 132). Rav Kook proceeds to explain: "When lofty ideals are limited by a known border and fence, they immediately darken and descend from their hidden fortress. They receive a practical advantage and the firm holding of an action through their definition, but the lofty purity they possessed before their uniquely enclosed embodiment is now lost to them."

This means that there is no possibility that lofty ideals will be immediately realized in our world, for the original light is so great and pure that were it to be revealed in all its strength reality would blur and be unable to exist. Alongside this, there is an advantage to its worldly revelation, for there is no other way to receive the ideals.
At times the same gap between the lofty ideals and their practical appearance causes sins as well as limitations, and then the weak-minded think that there is no possibility at present to connect between the Absolute Divine and our world.

Such thinking forms a destructive error that causes people to despair of living a Divinely-inspired life and the result is that crude materiality takes control of us, with all aspirations shrinking to the pleasures of "eat and drink for tomorrow we shall die."

The Mishkan is the answer to this slight and false thought, as it reveals the lofty name of Hashem in the world - "And they shall make me a sanctuary and I shall dwell amongst them." In order that a person should not reach the conclusion that the Mikdash is on a different "planet" and that the regular order of life cannot be learned from it, the Torah places the parsha of "Ki Tissa" and the story of the sin of the Calf between the parshot of the command that Moshe receives while he is still on Mount Sinai at a very lofty level, divine-angelic (as the Kuzari puts it), when he is directly connected to the lofty ideals, and between the parshot of the performance and the revelation in the world. From this we learn that the Mishkan forms part of the regular life routine and that "gap" which we spoke of above exists in it as well, and that despite the falling-off after the ideal command given to Moshe, the children of Israel are still able to build a Mishkan upon which the Shechina rests.

The repeated detailing of the Mishkan and its vessels also teaches us this principle. After Moshe connected himself to the ideal foundation of the Mishkan in the parshot of "Terumah" and "Tetzaveh," he descends to Am Yisrael and commands them regarding this (the beginning of our Parsha). In order that we should not make the mistake of separating and detaching the Divine command from Moshe's command, the Torah goes over all the vessels in order to connect them to the original ideal. Afterwards the final stage of the practical performance arrives and here too the Torah goes over and provides exact detail of the Mishkan and its vessels in order to teach us that man has the ability to connect reality to the Divine source.

The MIdrash Rabbah teaches us: "With these three things was the world created, as it says, 'Hashem founded the world with wisdom, established heaven with understanding, by His knowledge the depths were broken up' (Mishlei iii, 19-20), and with these three things the Mishkan was made, as it says, 'And I will fill him with a Divine spirit, with wisdom, understanding and knowledge,' and with these three things the Bet Mikdash was built, as it says, 'He was the son of a widow, from the tribe of Naftali, and he was filled with wisdom, understanding and knowledge' (Melachim I, vii, 14). Likewise, when Hakadosh Baruch Hu will come to build it in the future it will be built with these three things, as it says, 'He will build a house with wisdom and establish it with understanding' (Mishlei xxiv, 3), and it is written, 'and chambers shall be filled with knowledge' (ibid, 4)" (48:6). From this we learn of the inner connection between the Divine foundation in the creation of the world and between the earthly Mishkan and the future permanent Mikdash. This connection can be revealed in our world because the craftsmen who build the Mishkan and the Mikdash are also connected to this inner foundation.

The Gemara in Berachot (51a) states: "Said Rabbi Yochanan, Hakadosh Baruch Hu gives wisdom only to he who has wisdom, as it says, 'He gives wisdom to the wise' (Daniel, ii, 21). Rav Tachlifa bar Ma'arava heard this and recited it before Rav Abbahu. He said to him, We learn this from the following: 'And in the heart of all those wise at heart I have placed wisdom' (Shemot xxxi, 6)."

Rav Kook explains: "The attribute of wisdom is dependant on two things - learning and diligence, as well as a natural talent from the formation of his soul, and this is the more central issue, for one who possesses a natural talent will diligently increase his wisdom, but regarding one whose soul does not possess a natural creative ability, learning will not help him fill in that strength that he has lacked from the outset of his creation. The reason for this is that real wisdom is not one of those external items that are acquired through learning and knowledge but is rather an inner picture in the soul…while one can be a person who knows things even without possessing inner talent, such a one cannot be a sage who possesses true wisdom" (Ein Ayah, ibid). This means that the wise men who were occupied with the building of the Mikdash had to be wise in their inner foundation, and not just regarding the external acquisition of wisdom. This internal wisdom is a Divine gift that does not depend on man's efforts and is thus connected to the ideal foundation of life. Apart from this Divine gift, man is expected to toil of his own accord and to reveal the Divine foundation in practice. The builders of the Mishkan express the connection between the ideal and its appearance in the world through their personalities and lives, and were therefore able to build the Mishkan and reveal the Shechina in practice. Wisdom is not enough in order to connect between the lofty ideals and the reality of the world, but rather the strength of dedication [mesirat nefesh] to the service of Hashem and Israel His people is needed. The Midrash Rabbah teaches us: "'See, Hashem has called by name Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur.' Why is Chur's name mentioned (while Ohaliav's grandfather is not)? – At the hour when Israel wished to serve idols (through the Calf) he gave his soul in dedication to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and would not let them. They arose and killed him. Hakadosh Baruch Hu said to him: Upon your life I will repay you" (48:5). In the merit of Chur's dedication in the service of Hashem and Miriam's dedication over the existence of the nation, Betzalel succeeded in building the Mishkan.

Today, too, we find people of pure and wonderful thoughts, but they are huddled away in their intellectual world and will not dedicate themselves in practice to the nation and its Torah. Conversely, we find people of great enthusiasm that leads them to dedicate themselves, yet they lack wisdom. We should not expect the full revelation of the name of Hashem, which will appear, be'ezrat Hashem, in our redemption, to come through one of them alone, but only the connection of wisdom and dedication will lead to the residing of the Shechina in Israel.

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