Purim The Eternal Mishkan

Nov 17, 2014

by Rabbi Dovid Kamenetsky

On the first day of Adar the Sanhedrin would announce the commandment to give the half shekel coin to the Beit Hamikdash, as described in the first Mishnah of Masechet Shekalim. It is not by coincidence that the Parshiot of Terumah and Tetzaveh, which deal with the erection of the Mishkan, are read during this month.

What is the connection between the month of Adar and the construction of the Tabernacle?

Concerning the building of the Mishkan, the verse states: “You shall make the beams of the Mishkan of Shittim wood, standing erect.” (Exodus 26:15). Rashi, quoting a Midrash, points out that the definite article “the,” in reference to beams, is an allusion to those beams which had already been standing, designated for this purpose. Our father Jacob replanted Shittim trees in Egypt, and when he lay dying, he commanded his sons to take them up with them when they would depart from Egypt. He told them that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, would command them in the future to make a Mishkan of Shittim wood in the wilderness. So he said, “See to it that you should have them ready at hand.”

Although the Midrash states that Abraham planted Shittim trees in Beer Sheva, and Jacob on his way down to Egypt passed through Beer Sheva to take those trees with him, Rashi merely abridged the Midrash and only relates the pertinent section, of Jacob replanting those trees in Egypt.

Seemingly, there is a difficulty with Jacob’s actions. Why was it necessary for him to replant those trees which were initially planted by Abraham? He could have simply planted new trees in Egypt.

Perhaps it was because at the point Jacob came down to Egypt the Jewish people went into exile. Jacob brought with him a part of Eretz Yisroel as a constant reminder to the Jewish people that eventually they will be redeemed in order to build a dwelling place for the Shechinah. The verse in fact states, “They shall make for me a Sanctuary – so that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). Chazal point out that the verse does not state “in it” rather “among them”; that is, in each and every one of them. It is for this reason that the Gemara tells us that when the Holy Temple is no longer standing we are required to read the portions of the sacrifices as a constant reminder of the Temple. A constant yearning for the third Temple is what sustains us in this long exile.

Based on this Midrash, we can perhaps understand the words of Chazal in Yoma (72a), “Rav Chama the son of Rav Chaninah said: What is meant by that which is written: ‘And you shall make the beams of the Mishkan of Shittim wood standing erect.’ Lest you say, now that the Tabernacle has fallen into disuse and the beams interred; their promise is gone and their hope – which they held out to us is ruined, never to return! The Torah therefore teaches that the beams are standing, to tell us that they are standing forever and ever.”

Clearly the Gemara intends that the word “standing” in the verse is in the present tense as a sign that the beams of the Mishkan were never destroyed.

The idea that this Gemara is relating can be explained with another Gemara (Bava Metzia 85b). “Once, when R’ Chanina bar Rav Chama and R’ Chiya were arguing with each other concerning some point, R’ Chiya said to R’ Chanina. ‘With me you argue? I make sure that the Torah is not forgotten from the Jewish people. What do I do? I go and I plant flax. Then I weave nets from the grown flax, and I trap deer with nets and I feed the meat to the orphans. Then I prepare scrolls of parchment with their skins and I write the five Chumashim of the Torah on these scrolls.’” The Gemara goes on to describe how he taught Torah to the youth of the generation.

It is interesting to note that R’ Chiya invested his own physical effort – planting the flax, weaving the nets, trapping the deer, and preparing the parchments – in guarding the Torah. The Gaon of Vilna explains that the point made by this Gemara is that in order for something to last forever it must be done from beginning to end entirely with holiness and purity, without any outer forces or disqualifying thoughts. It is for this reason that R’ Chiya stressed he would do everything with his own hands to guard the Torah.

Likewise our forefather Abraham understood that in order for G-d’s Sanctuary to exist forever he must himself, with all the right intentions, plant those Shittim trees it would be built from. For this reason Jacob specifically took those Shittim trees planted by Abraham to Egypt in order to build the Mishkan.

Indeed, Sforno points out that the two holy Temples were destroyed, for there were outside elements that were instrumental in their construction. King Solomon invited Chiram the King of Tzur to help him in the construction of the first Temple. The second Temple was built under the guidance of the Kings of Persia and Medes. These outer forces caused the demise of the Two Temples, unlike the Mishkan, which, from its initial stage, was built solely by the Jewish people from Abraham onward. It is for this reason that the Gemara in Sotah (9a) relates that the Tabernacle and all its components remained intact and were hidden beneath the holy Temple.

The preparation for the erection of the Mishkan was concluded in the month of Adar and it was erected on the first day of Nissan. Adar, the month “which was changed from sorrow to joy” was therefore the most appropriate month for the conclusion of the Tabernacle to take place in.

As we approach the month of Adar, let us hope that this month will change for us from sorrow to joy, with the building of the Third Temple by the hand of the Almighty, never to be destroyed.

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