The Parasha starts by repeating information provided in the previous Parasha: “These are the records of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of the Pact, which were drawn up at Moshe’ bidding, the work of the Levites under the direction of Itamar son of Aaron the priest. Bezalel, son of Uri son of Chur, of the tribe of Judah, had made all that Hashem had commanded Moshe; at his side was Oholiab son of Achisamach, of the tribe of Dan, carver and designer, and embroiderer in blue, purple, and crimson yarns and in fine linen” (Exodus 38:21-23). The Zohar [Pikudei 221b] asks two additional questions: 1) why the word Tabernacle is repeated twice, following one another? 2) Additionally, the Tabernacle was described in details, in the past few Parashios, though there was no mention of the “Tabernacle of the pact”, what is it?
The Zohar answers, the word Tabernacle was repeated to inform us that whenever a person does an action in this world it’s immediately replicated in the upper world. When Bnei Yisrael built the Mishkan, automatically and immediately a Mishkan was erected in Heaven. The lower one was made from worldly materials while the upper one was made of all types of beautiful lights comprising all sorts of blessings. Furthermore, this is the very reason why it’s referred as the “Tabernacle of the pact”, since a pact can only be made between at least two parties, and so Hashem assures that the two Tabernacles will work in unison to provide all the needs of the Jewish nation. People would not get sick, People would not work hard, there was no misfortune, only happiness and peacefulness. Enemies would not even dare to attack us they were fearing the Hashem’s power.
The Midrash offers a different answer to the reason why the words Tabernacle are following one another. They hint the construction and destruction of the two Temples. What was the difference between the Temples and the Tabernacle? The Tabernacle is everlasting and never felt in the hands of other nations, while the Temples felt afoul twice to our enemies? The Seforno (Exodus 38:21-24) links the outcome of the Temples with the people involved in their building. The first Temple was built by the righteous King
Solomon; however, the workers were non-Jews from Tsur. Since the Temple was not built by righteous people, it was subject to corrosion and therefore needed to be maintained, unlike the Tabernacle. Moreover, because of its lower level of holiness it did ultimately fall into the hands of our enemies and was destroyed. The second Temple was of an even lower level of holiness; it was built by Cyrus, the Persian King, and the Tablets were not even in it. Accordingly, it too fell afoul to our enemies and was destroyed. Three Verses later, the Torah informs us of the total value of the donations that were given for the building of the Tabernacle. The Seforno notes that the gifts’ value for the Tabernacle was far inferior than of both Temples’; both of which were incredibly beautiful and expensive buildings. Yet, unlike the Temples, the humble Tabernacle continually had the Divine Presence within it. The Seforno concludes that the holiness of a building is not defined by its material value and beauty, rather by the spiritual level and the efforts of the people involved in its construction.
In a similar vein, the explanation of the Seforno teaches us that the Torah outlook attributes true value towards physical objects or buildings in a very different way to that of the secular outlook. In the secular world, the external beauty or material value of the item define its ‘value’. In contrast, the Torah pays little heed to the external qualities rather the internal spirituality that was invested into the item determines its true value. Thus, the Tabernacle may have been far less physically impressive than the two Temples, but its true value was far greater because of the intentions and efforts of the people who built it.
The Talmud [Yoma 4b] describes the level of holiness present in the Mishkan: “Rabbi Zerika raised that there’s a seemingly contradiction between the Verses; One Verse states: And Moshe was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud abode thereon… whereas another says: And Moshe entered into the midst of the cloud. It teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, took hold of Moshe and brought him into the cloud”.
Even Moshe who ascended the Heavens to bring us the Torah was unable to enter the Tabernacle as Hashem’s spirit was residing therein. In Hashem’s Eyes the true beauty is directly linked to the efforts expended. It’s nice to help one another when it’s easy, though the true value of the Mitzva is when it requires an effort!
By Rabbi Shimon Fridmann