FROM THE TORAH
Two weeks ago, in Sedra Yitro, God spoke the Ten Commandments in Israel’s presence at Mount Sinai. Hearing God’s voice amid extraordinary phenomena, the people were terrified and asked Moses to deliver God’s message, instead of God Himself. Moses then approached the heavy cloud of the Eternal’s presence. The Eternal delivered to Moses some general ritual criteria. Then, last week, in Sedra Mishpatim, the Eternal continued the message with a wide range of mostly non-ritual laws. After hearing these, the people ratified the covenant with the now-famous words, “All that the Eternal has spoken, we shall do and we shall hear” (Exodus 24:7)! The Eternal has invited Moses, alone out of all the leaders, to come up to Him on the Mountain. Moses ascends and remains on the Mountain for forty days and forty nights.
The Sanctuary and Its Components
The Eternal tells Moses to instruct the Children of Israel to “take for Me, everyone whose heart is willing, a dedicated gift (Terumah)” (Exodus 25:2). These offerings may be of gold, silver, copper; yarns of blue, purple and crimson; fine linen and goats’ hair; various skins; acacia wood; oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the aromatic incense; shoham stones and other gems for the Ephod and for the Breastplate. “Let them make for Me a Sanctuary (Mikdash) so that I may be present in their midst” (Exodus 25:8). Make the Tabernacle (Mishkan) and its implements in accordance with the patterns that I show you.
Let them make an Ark (Aron) of acacia wood, two-and-a-half cubits long, one-and-a-half cubits wide, one-and-a-half cubits high. Overlay it, inside and out, with pure gold, and make around it, at its top, a border of gold. Cast for it four gold rings, which you shall place on its four feet, two rings on each of its sides. Make rods of acacia wood overlaid with gold, and insert one through the rings on each side of the Ark, to be used for carrying the Ark and otherwise to remain inserted. Into the Ark place the Testimony (Edut) which I shall give to you.
You shall make a Propitiatory (Kaporet) of pure gold, two-and-a-half cubits long, one-and-a-half cubits wide, and from the gold of the Propitiatory make, as one with it, two Cherubs at opposite ends. Make them of hammered work. They should face each other but looking toward the Propitiatory, wings spread out above, shielding the Propitiatory. Place the Propitiatory upon the Ark, and into the Ark place the Testimony which I shall give to you. There shall I meet with you and speak with you—above the Propitiatory from between the two Cherubs that are on top of the Ark of the Testimony—all that I command you concerning the Children of Israel.
You shall make a Table (Shulchan) of acacia wood, two cubits long, one cubit wide, one-and-a-half cubits high. Overlay it with pure gold, and make around it a border of gold. Make a rim of a hand’s breadth around it, and make a border of gold around its rim. Make for it four gold rings, and attach the rings to the four corners of its four legs, close by the rim. The rings shall be the housing of rods to lift the Table. Make the rods of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. Make its libation dishes, pans, jars, and bowls, of pure gold. On the Table you shall place before Me Showbread (Lechem Panim) regularly.
You shall make a Lamp (Menorah) of pure gold, of hammered work: its base, shaft, cups, knobs, and buds, all shall be of one piece with it. Out of each of the two sides shall come three branches. On each of the total of six branches there shall be three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with a knob and a bud. On the Menorah itself there shall be four cups shaped like almond blossoms with its knobs and buds. Of one piece with it there shall be a knob under each of the three pairs of branches. All of it shall be a single hammered piece of pure gold. Light the seven lamps so as to cast light on its front side.
Its tongs and its fire pans shall be of pure gold. From a talent of pure gold shall it and all of these implements be made. See and follow the pattern for them which you are being shown upon the Mountain.
You shall make the Tabernacle (Mishkan) of 10 sheets of twisted fine linen and of blue and purple and crimson yarns. Make them to show cherubs as the creation of a designer. The length of each sheet shall be 28 cubits, and the width 4 cubits. Five of them shall be joined to each other, and the other five shall be joined to each other. Make 50 loops of blue thread on the edge of the outermost sheet of each of the two sets. The loops of the two sets should be arranged opposite each other. Make 50 gold clasps and attach the outermost sheets of the two sets one to the other with the clasps so that the tabernacle becomes one.
You shall make 11 sheets of goats’ hair for a Tent (Ohel) over the Tabernacle. The length of each sheet shall be 30 cubits, and the width 4 cubits. Join five of the sheets as a set, join the other six as a separate set, and fold the sixth sheet in the second set at the front of the Tent. Make 50 loops on the edge of the one outermost sheet of the one set and 50 loops on the edge of the sheet of the other set. Make 50 copper clasps and insert them into the loops, then connect the two parts of the Tent into one. The excess half-sheet shall extend over the back of the Tabernacle. The extra cubit at both ends of the length of the sheets of the Tent shall be extended over both sides of the Tabernacle to cover it.
You shall make a Covering (Michseh) for the Tent of reddened ram skins and tachash skins from above.
You shall make for the Tabernacle vertical boards (kerashim) of acacia wood. The length of each board shall be 10 cubits, and the width a cubit-and-a-half. Each board shall have two parallel tenons. Make for both the south side and the north side of the Tabernacle, each, 20 such boards, and make 40 silver sockets for the 20 boards of each side, two silver sockets for the two tenons of each board.
For the rear of the Tabernacle, on the west, make 6 boards and another 2 boards for the two corners. They shall remain flush with each other from bottom to top, where every two contiguous boards are joined by a ring connector, and this applies as well to the additional 2 boards for the two corners, which are similarly connected to the westernmost boards of the southern and northern sides of the Tabernacle, respectively. So, at the western end there shall be 8 boards in all and 16 silver sockets, two sockets under each board.
Make 5 bars of acacia wood for each of the two side walls of the Tabernacle and its rear wall to the west. The middle bar of each of the three walls will pass through the boards from end to end. Overlay the boards with gold. Their rings, which shall serve as housing for the bars, you shall make of gold, and overlay the bars with gold.
Then set up the Tabernacle in accordance with its warrant that you have been shown on the Mountain.
THE DIVIDING CURTAIN
You shall make a Dividing Curtain (Parochet) of blue, purple and crimson yarns, twisted fine linen, with a designer’s work rendering cherubs, and hang it upon four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold, their hooks of gold upon four sockets of silver. Hang the Dividing Curtain under the clasps. Bring the Ark of the Testimony behind the Dividing Curtain so that the Dividing Curtain makes a separation for you between Holy Space (Kodesh) and The Most Holy Space (Kodesh Hakodashim). Place the Propitiatory upon the Ark of the Testimony (cf. Exodus 25:21) in The Most Holy Space. Locate both the Table and the Menorah outside of the Dividing Curtain, the Table on the north side and the Menorah opposite the Table on the south side of the Tabernacle.
You shall make a Screen (Masach) for the entrance of the Tent, of blue, purple and crimson yarns, twisted fine linen, the work of a weaver. Make for the Screen five posts of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, their hooks of gold, and cast for them five sockets of copper.
You shall make the Altar (Mizbeach) from acacia wood 5 cubits square and 3 cubits high, its horns of one piece with it at its four corners, and overlay it with copper. Make its pots to clear away the fat ashes, its shovels, basins, forks, and fire-holders, all of them copper. Make for it a grating, network of copper, and put upon its four corners four copper rings. Place it under the border of the Altar extending below as far as the halfway point of its height. Make poles for the Altar, of acacia wood, and overlay them with copper. Its poles shall be inserted through the rings on two sides of the Altar and used for carrying it. Make it of boards so that it is hollow. As was shown you on the Mountain, thus shall they do.
You shall make the Court (Chatzer) of the Tabernacle. The length of its south and north sides shall be 100 cubits. Its width, at both the west and the east ends, shall be 50 cubits. Its height shall be 5 cubits. Along the south side and along the north side, each, there shall be 100 cubits of curtains of twisted fine linen with 20 posts and their 20 copper sockets and their silver hooks and bands. For the width of the court on the western end, 50 cubits, there shall be curtains for its full width and 10 of their posts and 10 of their copper sockets and their silver hooks and bands. For the width of the Court on the eastern end, on both sides of the space for the gate there shall be 15 cubits of curtains with their 3 posts and their 3 copper sockets and their silver hooks and bands. For the gate itself there shall be a screen of 20 cubits: blue, purple and crimson yarns, twisted fine linen, the work of a weaver, with their 4 posts and their 4 copper sockets and their silver hooks and bands. All of the utensils of the Tabernacle for all of its service and all of its pegs, including the pegs of the Court, shall be copper.
FROM THE PROPHETS
Haftarah for Shabbat Terumah
I Kings 5:26-6:13
Solomon Builds the Temple
The Eternal gave wisdom to Solomon as He had promised him (cf. I Kings 3:2). Solomon and Hiram (king of Tyre) enter into a treaty with each other. Solomon imposes a conscription upon all of Israel of 30,000 men. In a cycle of three months, for any one month 10,000 men would be sent to Lebanon, and for the next two months those men would be at home, while another 10,000 men would be sent to Lebanon for the next month. Adoniram was in charge of the conscription.
Solomon has 70,000 load bearers and 80,000 hewers in the mountain. Besides Solomon’s appointed officers over the work, there are 3,300 who supervise the laborers directly. The king mandates the quarrying of massive valuable stones for the foundation of the House, hewn stone. The builders of both Solomon and Hiram, along with the Gebalites, hew them. They prepare the wood and the stones to build the House.
In the 480th year since the Exodus of the Children of Israel from the land of Egypt, in the month of Ziv, the second month, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, he builds the Eternal’s House. It was 60 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high.
The Entrance Court (Ulam) in front of the Outer Sanctuary (Heychal) of the House is 20 cubits long, corresponding to the width of the House, and 10 cubits wide. He makes for the House windows of narrowing frames, and he builds against the wall of the House a structure around it, around both the Outer Sanctuary and the Inner Sanctuary (D’vir), and he makes side chambers around it. The width of the structures is 5 cubits for the lowest, 6 cubits for the middle, and 7 cubits for the highest, corresponding to ascending recesses built into the wall of the House forming progressive ledges to support part of the side chambers so that the supports do not penetrate the walls of the House. Indeed the House was built of stone as it was complete at the quarry so that no hammer or axe or any iron implement was heard in the House when it was being built (cf. Exodus 20:22). The entrance to the middle chamber is to the right side of the House, and they ascend through passages over the middle to the third level. He finishes the House with rows of beams of cedar. The height of each story of the side structure is 5 cubits, and it rests on the House over planks of cedar.
The word of the Eternal comes to Solomon regarding the House that he has built: If you follow My statutes and ordinances and keep My commandments, then I shall establish My word with you as I did for David your father, and I shall be present among the Children of Israel and not forsake My people Israel.
FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH
Exodus Rabbah 33:1
God remains near to His daughter Torah
“The Eternal tells Moses to instruct the Children of Israel:
‘Let them take for Me a dedicated gift…’”
It would seem that He meant to say, “Let them give to Me a gift!” But since He did say “take,” we might understand Him to be saying, “Let them take Me as a gift!” This may be considered a gift in which the giver is also himself given.
Consider a king who had only one daughter. A prince from a foreign land came and married her. Then her new husband wanted to return with her to his own land. Her father said to him: My daughter, whom I have given to you, is my only daughter; to part with her I cannot. To ask you not to take her I cannot, as she is your wife. Instead, do me this favor: Wherever you go, make for me a small room in which I can dwell near you, for I am not able to remain apart from my daughter.
Thus said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Israel: I have given you My Torah, but to part with it I cannot. To ask you not to take it I cannot. Instead, wherever you go, make for Me a house in which to dwell, as was said: “Let them make for Me a Sanctuary so that I may be present in their midst” (Exodus 25:8). I have conveyed to you My Torah, and it is as if I have been conveyed with it, as was said, “Let them take Me as a gift” (Exodus 25:2)!
Exodus Rabbah 33:3
Israel sleeps, but God and Fathers remain awake
“I sleep, but my heart is awake
to the voice of my beloved.
As he knocks, I hear him say:
Open for me—
my sister, my bride, my dove, my pure one—
as my head is full of dew,
my locks covered by the drops of night!”
(Song of Songs 5:2)
Israel the bride is saying:
I have fallen asleep before the time of redemption, but the Holy One, blessed be He, remains awake!—as was said, “My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the Rock of my heart and my Portion forever” (Psalms 73:26)!
I have fallen asleep instead of observing the commandments, but “my heart” remains awake. What is “my heart?” It is the merit of my Fathers, which stands me in good stead!
I have fallen asleep, as evinced by the golden calf, but my heart is “awake” as the Holy One, blessed be He, knocks for me, saying, “Take for Me a gift…” (Exodus 25:2): “Open for Me, My sister, My bride!”—how long must I go around without a house? “As My head is full of dew,” “make for Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8)—so that I do not have to remain outside!
Exodus Rabbah 33:4
Our gifts to the Eternal are from the Eternal
“Let them take to Me [lee] a gift…” (Exodus 25:2)
“Let them take what is Mine [lee] as a gift…”
Thus, Rabbi Berechya began his discourse
with the following verse:
“Yours, Eternal One, is the greatness and the power…
for everything in the heavens and on the earth is Yours…”
(I Chronicles 29:11)
That is to say:
Whatever the Holy One, blessed be He, created above, He created below.
So what we may see below, He also created above!
This is reflected in the Tabernacle and the Temple:
Below, Solomon declared,
“The Eternal determined to dwell in the thick darkness;
I have, therefore, built a House of Habitation for You…” (I Kings 8:12-13).
Above, the Prophet declared,
“Look from heaven, and see from Your Holy Habitation…” (Isaiah 63:15),
“and Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:18)!
Below, “You shall make for the Tabernacle standing boards of acacia wood” (Exodus 26:15).
Above, “Seraphim were standing above Him” (Isaiah 6:2)!
Below, “There shall I meet with you and speak with you—above the Propitiatory from between the two Cherubim that are on top of the Ark of the Testimony…” (Exodus 25:22).
Above, King Hezekiah prayed,
“O Eternal of Hosts, God of Israel, who dwells among the Cherubim…” (Isaiah 37:16)!
Below: “Eli the Priest was sitting on the throne…of the Temple of the Eternal” (I Samuel 1:9),
and “A grand throne of glory from the beginning
is the place of our Sanctuary” (Jeremiah 17:12).
Above, “The Eternal is in His Holy Temple…His throne is in the heavens” (Psalms 11:4)!
Below, “Bring the Ark of the Testimony behind the Dividing Curtain
so that the Dividing Curtain makes a division for you
between Holy Space and The Most Holy Space” (Exodus 26:33).
Above, “God called forth an expanse within the water,
dividing water below the expanse from water above the expanse” (Genesis 1:6)!
Below, “In this way shall Aaron come to the Holy Place…
and be dressed with a sacred linen tunic…” (Leviticus 16:3-4).
Above, “The man clothed with linen…reports the matter, saying,
‘I have done all that You have commanded me’” (Ezekiel 9:11)!
Below, “The lips of a Priest shall guard knowledge, and they shall seek Torah from his mouth, for he is a Messenger (Malach) of the Eternal of hosts” (Malachi 2:7).
Above, “The Angel (Malach) of the Eternal encamps around those who fear Him,
and He saves them” (Psalms 34:8)!
Below, “An Altar of earth shall you make for Me…” (Exodus 20:21).
Above, “One of the Seraphim…took a burning coal with tongs
from off of the Altar” (Isaiah 6:6)!
Below, “The Tabernacle shall you make with ten curtains…” (Exodus 26:1).
Above, “O Eternal my God, You are very great…
You stretch out the heavens like a curtain” (Psalms 104:1-2)!
Below, “Command the Children of Israel to take to you
pure beaten olive oil for the light…” (Exodus 27:20).
Above, “Light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:22)!
Not only that,
but more beloved to Him
than all that is above
is all that is below,
and this you know
because He took leave of what is above
and went down to what is below,
as was said:
“Let them make for Me a Sanctuary
so that I may dwell in their midst!” (Exodus 25:8) –
further proof that
whatever the Holy One, blessed be He,
He created below.
So it is that:
“Everything in the heavens and on the earth is Yours…” (I Chronicles 29:11),
and “’Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold,’
declares the Eternal of hosts” (Haggai 2:8),
so that any gift they would provide for the Eternal
would not be given from them
but taken from Him!
“Let them take what is Mine [lee] as a gift…”
Exodus Rabbah 33:7
What Moses commanded is ever our possession
“Moses commanded us the Torah,
an inheritance of the Congregation of Jacob.”
But did not God “command us the Torah?”
Rabbi Simlai explained: How did Moses give Israel the Torah? The Torah contains 613 commandments. But what is the numerical value of the letters of the word, “Torah?” If you recognize it is only 611 (tav=400 + cholam=6 + resh=200 + hey=5), where are the missing two? The Rabbis teach: “I am the Eternal your God” (Exodus 20:2) and “You shall not have other gods besides Me” (Exodus 20:3) were the two heard from the mouth of God Himself. Moses, then, taught them the other 611, so indeed, “Moses commanded us the ‘Torah’ (611)” (Deuteronomy 33:4)!
But did the Congregation of Jacob actually “inherit” the Torah?
Do not read it “inheritance of the Congregation of Jacob” (as if they had inherited it from others) but “possession,” a possession of Israel (going forward) forever! This may be likened to a prince who was captured as a child and taken to a faraway land. Even after many years, he is not discouraged. For he believes, “To the possession of my fathers I shall return!” (Although he was cut off from the inheritance of his fathers, he viewed his father’s possession as his for the future.) Similarly, a scholar who separates from the Torah to engage in other affairs: even after many years he may seek to return and not be discouraged, because he believes, “To the possession of my fathers I shall return!”
Exodus Rabbah 34:1
“But will God really dwell on earth?”
“These (your) words
describe only a small part of His ways,
for we can sense of Him
only a whisper of a word,
while His powerful thunder
who can understand?”
Our great Rabbi (Judah Hanasi) explained these words of Job as a response to the shortsighted consolations of his friends: Do you think that you have uttered all that can be said of the Holy One, blessed be He? Such was also the meaning of Elihu’s words, “The Almighty, who cannot be conceived for the magnitude of His power…” (Job 37:23): We do not find the full power of the Holy One, blessed be He, burdening His creations; rather He interacts with man only to the extent of man’s strength to bear it.
Thus you find that when He gave the Torah to Israel, if He had delivered it to them in the fullness of His power, they would not have been able to endure it, as was said, “If we continue to hear (directly) the voice of the Eternal our God, we shall die” (Deuteronomy 5:22)! Instead He comes upon them only to the extent of their strength, as was said, “The voice of the Eternal is in (accordance with) strength” (Psalms 29:4), not “in accordance with His strength,” as we might have expected, therefore implying: in accordance with the limited and varying strength of each individual person!
“The Almighty, who cannot be conceived
for the magnitude of His power…”
Similarly, when the Holy One, blessed be He, instructed Moses, “Make Me a Tabernacle that I may dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8), Moses exclaimed in astonishment: The glory of the Holy One, blessed be He, is the fullness of the high places and of the low places, and He says, “Make Me (limit Me to) a Tabernacle?!” Moreover, he looked into the future and saw Solomon building the Temple, which was even larger than the Tabernacle, and Solomon wondered before the Holy One, blessed be He, “But will God really dwell on earth” (I Kings 8:27)? So Moses reasoned: If, in the case of the Temple, which is much larger than the Tabernacle, Solomon questions whether God will really dwell in it, then in the case of the (smaller) Tabernacle, how much the moreso should I raise the same question!
But God responded: Not like Mine are your thoughts—twenty boards in the north, twenty in the south, and eight in the west (cf. Exodus 26:18,22-23)—nothing more do I need; indeed I may come down and confine My Presence to one square cubit!
Dependence and Interdependence
Yom Kippur Machzor
For we are Your people, and You are our God.
We are Your children, and You are our Father.
We are Your flock, and You are our Shepherd.
We are Your vineyard, and You are our Watcher.
Song of Songs Rabbah 2:16
“My beloved is mine, and I am his…”
(Song of Songs 2:16)
He is my God, and I am His nation,
as was said:
“Attend to Me, My people,
and listen to Me, My nation!”
He is my Father, and I am His child,
as was said:
“For You are our Father…” (Isaiah 63:16),
“I am Israel’s Father…” (Jeremiah 31:8);
“…Israel is My firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22),
“You are children of the Eternal your God!” (Deuteronomy 14:1)
He is my Shepherd—
“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel…” (Psalms 80:2)—
and I am His flock—
“And you, O My flock, the flock of My pasture,
you are man, and I am your God…” (Ezekiel 34:31).
He is my Watcher—
“He neither slumbers nor sleeps,
the Watcher of Israel” (Psalms 121:4)—
and I am His vineyard—
“For the vineyard of the Eternal of hosts
is the House of Israel…” (Isaiah 5:7).
When I needed help,
it was to Him alone that I turned—
“…When Pharaoh drew near (at the Red Sea)…,
the Children of Israel cried out to the Eternal” (Exodus 12:10)—
and when He needed help,
it was to me alone that He turned—
“Speak to the Children of Israel:
Let them take for Me a dedicated gift” (Exodus 25:2)!
When I was afflicted by Jabin, king of Canaan,
to the Eternal alone did I appeal—
“The Children of Israel cried out to the Eternal
because of the 900 chariots of iron (of Jabin)
and the 20 years of oppression (by Jabin)” (Judges 4:3)!—
and when He needed help,
it was to me alone that He turned—
“Let them make for Me a Sanctuary…” (Exodus 25:8)!
Exodus Rabbah 34:3
“Let them make for Me a Sanctuary…!”
Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Israel:
You are My flock—
“And you, O My flock, the flock of My pasture,
you are man, and I am your God…” (Ezekiel 34:31)—
and I am the Shepherd—
“Give ear to the Shepherd of Israel…” (Psalms 80:2)—
Make a shed for the Shepherd,
so that He can come and shepherd you!
Therefore was it said:
“Let them make for Me a Sanctuary
so that I may be present in their midst.”
You are a vineyard—
“For the vineyard of the Eternal of hosts
is the House of Israel…” (Isaiah 5:7)—
and I am the Watcher—
“He neither slumbers nor sleeps,
the Watcher of Israel” (Psalms 121:4)—
Make a sukkah for the Watcher
so that He can watch over you!
You are My children—
“You are children of the Eternal your God” (Deuteronomy 14:1)!—
and I am your Father—
“I am Israel’s Father…” (Jeremiah 31:8)—
It is an honor for the children to be close to their father,
and it is an honor for the father to be close to his children,
as was taught:
“The crown of the old is their children’s children,
and the glory of children is their father” (Proverbs 17:6)—
So make a house for the Father
that He may come and be present near His children!
Therefore was it said:
“Let them make for Me a Sanctuary
so that I may be present in their midst.”
Genesis Rabbah 94:4
Song of Songs Rabbah 1:12
Tanchuma Terumah 9
“So Israel, with all that belongs to him, travels to Beersheba…”
“Abraham planted an eshel in Beersheba…”
Assuming that Jacob (Israel) began the journey to Egypt from his home in Hebron, why did he travel first to Beersheba? Rav Nachman offered: He went to Beersheba in order to cut boards [arazim] from wood of the tree that his grandfather Abraham had planted there.
Rav Nachman is offering an opinion as to what was the eshel
that Abraham planted in Beersheba!
(Cf. “What did Abraham plant?” From Talmud and Midrash in Sedra Summary Vayera)
Rabbi Levi adds: Since they were in the Wilderness when He said, “Let them make for Me a Sanctuary…in accordance with all that I show you of the form of the Tabernacle…” (Exodus 25:8 ff), where could they have found all of the components with the required measurements, such as the boards [arazim] for the planks and the middle bars inside the planks of acacia wood [atzey shittim]? Thus we learn that these components were prepared ahead of time by their father Jacob from the eshel which his grandfather Abraham had planted. They must have then been concealed with the Children of Israel when they went down to Egypt until they were redeemed:
“You shall prepare planks for the Tabernacle of acacia wood standing vertical [atzey shittim omedim]” (Exodus 26:15)—Interpret: “of standing acacia wood [atzey shittim omedim],” that is, of acacia wood that is already prepared [“put up,” omedim]!
Later, “Anyone with whom there was [nimtzah] acacia wood [atzey shittim] brought it for the work of the service” (Exodus 35:24)—It does not say, “with whom there will be [yimatzey] (when he finds it!),” but rather “with whom there (already!) was [nimtzah].”
Moreover it does not say simply, “They brought whatever acacia wood was found,” which could mean: whatever acacia wood they happened to find upon searching for it at that moment in the Wilderness; rather it says, “Anyone with whom [itto] there was acacia wood…” (ibid.), that is, anyone who already possessed the acacia wood that had been prepared ahead of time!
Exodus Rabbah 35:1
“Let them make an Ark (Aron) of acacia wood…”
“You shall make a Propitiatory (Kaporet) of pure gold…”
“You shall make a Table (Shulchan) of acacia wood…”
“You shall make a Lamp (Menorah) of pure gold…”
“You shall make the Tabernacle (Mishkan) of 10 sheets…
make 50 gold clasps…”
“You shall make for the Tabernacle vertical boards (kerashim) of acacia wood…
overlay the boards with gold.
Their rings, which shall serve as housing for the bars,
you shall make of gold, and overlay the bars with gold.”
“You shall make a Dividing Curtain (Parochet)…
and hang it upon four posts of acacia wood
overlaid with gold, their hooks of gold…”
(Exodus 26: 31-32)
“Make for the Screen (Masach) five posts of acacia wood,
and overlay them with gold, their hooks of gold…”
“You shall make the Altar (Mizbeach) from acacia wood…
make poles for the Altar, of acacia wood…”
The Holy One, blessed be He, created certain things in His world which the world was not worthy of using. One of these is the light that was created on the First Day: “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3)! in contradistinction to the luminaries He created on the Fourth Day (cf. Genesis 1:14-19).
Rabbi Judah son of Rabbi Simone taught: With the light that the Holy One, blessed be He, created on the First Day, Adam could see from one end of the world to the other. But when the Holy One, blessed be He, foresaw that in the time of Enosh “to call upon the name of the Eternal would become profaned (by idolatry)” (Genesis 4:26), that in the time of Noah “the earth would become corrupt before God” (Genesis 6:11), and that in the time of Babel they would seek to “make a Name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4), He determined to hide the light from them, as was said, “Their light was withheld from the wicked” (Job 38:15)! It was hidden for the righteous in time to come, as was said, “And God saw that the light was good” (Genesis 1:4): It would be good for the world and not harmful like the light of the sun. In the meantime, where did He hide it? In the Garden of Eden, as was said, “Light was planted for the righteous” (Psalms 97:11)!
Similarly, among the things that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world which the world was not worthy of using and therefore should have been hidden was gold. Said Rabbi Abahu: The Holy One, blessed be He, bestowed a great benefit upon man with gold, as was said, “The gold of that land is good” (Genesis 2:12). With a small amount of gold one can meet many obligations, whether at home or on a journey. Nonetheless, says Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, the only reason why gold, which is “good” (cf. Genesis 2:12), was created was for the sake of the Tabernacle and for the sake of the Temple, which Moses called, “That Good Mountain” (Deuteronomy 3:25)!
Rabbi Chaninah taught: The world was not worthy of using cedar, but cedars were created for the purpose of the Tabernacle and for the purpose of the Temple:
“Eternal my God, You are very great,
You are clothed in glory and majesty,
wearing light like a garment,
spreading out the heavens like a curtain…
The trees of the Eternal are duly employed,
the cedars of Lebanon which He planted,
where the birds make their nests
and the stork its home in the cypress…”
“The cedars of Lebanon” are the cedars of the Temple,
as Moses said:
“Let me cross over and behold the good Land which is on the other side of the Jordan
and The Good Mountain, which is This Lebanon!”
Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman taught in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: There are twenty-four different kinds of cedars, and these seven are highly praised: “I shall plant cedars in the wilderness: acacias, myrtles, oil-trees, cypresses, box trees, and elms, together” (Isaiah 41:19).
Unlike the light, the cedars were not hidden because the Holy One, blessed be He, foresaw that they would be used for the construction of the Tabernacle in the place where the Divine Presence would reside in the future, “where the birds would make their nests…” (Psalms 104:17), that is to say, where the Kohen would slaughter birds as offerings in the Temple, “…and where the stork [chasidah] would make his home in the cypress (Temple)” (ibid.), that is, the High Priest, as was said, “Your Tummim and Urim, instruments of the High Priest, belong to Your faithful man [chasidecha]” (Deuteronomy 33:8).
Exodus Rabbah 35:2
Ecological Lesson of Acacia Wood
Why were the Tabernacle vertical boards (and other implements) of acacia wood? The Holy One, blessed be He, was teaching good behavior for the future. If a person sought to build his house from a fruit-producing tree, he would be told: If the King of the kings of kings, the Owner of all, when intending to warrant the Tabernacle, says, “Bring only from a tree that does not produce fruit!” then you, seeking to build your own house, how much the moreso!
Healing for the Golden Calf
Tanchuma Terumah 8
“The lips of an alien woman drip honey…
her paths wander,
to where you do not know!”
“Let them make for Me a Sanctuary (Mikdash)
so that I may be present in their midst.”
When was this portion of the Torah regarding a Tabernacle said to Moses? On the very Day of Atonement when Israel atoned for the sin of the calf. But this portion regarding the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:8) precedes the incident of the calf (cf. Exodus 32:1 ff.)! Said Rabbi Judah son of Rabbi Shalom: There is no early or late in the Torah, as we interpret, “Her (the Torah’s) paths wander beyond your understanding” (Proverbs 5:6): Perplexing are the paths of Torah and the order of its portions!
So let us grant that the order of portions in the Torah transcends conventional “early or late,” that “Let them make for Me a Sanctuary” (Exodus 25:8) was said to Moses after Israel committed the sin of the calf (Exodus 32:1ff.). Can we then derive from the Torah as written that Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah on the Sixth of Sivan (Shavuot) and stayed forty days and forty nights (after which Israel worshipped the calf) and then another forty and then another forty for a total of 120 and then on the Day of Atonement their previous sin was expiated when on that very day the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “Let them make for Me a Sanctuary (Mikdash) so that I may be present in their midst,” in order that all the nations shall know that the incident of the calf was atoned for by them? The answer is found in why it was called “the Tabernacle of Testimony” (Numbers 1:53): Not simply because it contained the Tablets of Legislative Testimony, but also because it served as judicial testimony to all inhabitants of the world that the Holy One, blessed be He, is an active atoning Presence in your Sanctuary, “that I may be present in their midst” (Exodus 25:8)!
“I shall bring healing to you,
and from your wounds [mimakotayich] shall I cure you—
declares the Eternal.”
Said the Holy One, blessed be He: Let the gold that is in the Tabernacle atone for the gold that was used to make the calf, about which is written, “All the people took off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron” (Exodus 32:3). Therefore they atoned through gold: “And this is the offering (terumah) that you shall take from them: gold…” (Exodus 25:3). Indeed the Prophet confirms: “Said the Holy One, blessed be He: From that which wounds you [mimakotayich], the gold, which they brought to Aaron for making the calf, I shall bring healing to you by means of the atoning gold that is in the Tabernacle; thereby shall I cure you” (Jeremiah 30:17a)!
Commentary on Midrash Tanchuma
by Chanoch Zundel ben Yosef
“Gold” is mentioned as the first of the offerings (Exodus 25:3) to allude to the time of their having been pardoned for the sin of the calf, which was made of gold. That is why Moses was commanded at this point regarding the offerings of the Tabernacle even though the commandment itself was carried out (months later) (cf. Exodus 35-38) on the day after Yom Kippur, and the incident of the calf (cf. Exodus 32) was in the (earlier) month of Tammuz. We see from this that the Torah, “whose ways are ways of pleasantness and all of whose paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17), put the matter of the Tabernacle, which is atonement, before mentioning the sin itself of the calf, for such is the way of the Holy One, blessed be He, who puts healing before the wound. (Rabbenu Bachya)
Tanchuma ed. Buber Beha’alot’cha 2
Numbers Rabbah 15:2
The Menorah: God Vindicates Israel
“You shall make a Lamp (Menorah)…”
“Solomon made for the House
windows of narrowing frames.”
(I Kings 6:4)
“The Eternal’s desire is for His vindication [tzidko],
that He may magnify Torah
and strengthen it!”
The Prophet here expresses God’s motive
in commanding Moses to create the Menorah:
It is as if the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Explain to Israel that it is not because I need your light that I command you to kindle a Lamp, as was said, “He knows what is in the darkness, for light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:22), and “Darkness is not too dark for you, but night shines as the day” (Psalms 139:12), but in order to vindicate you. Interpret the Prophet’s words, “for His vindication [tzidko]” as “to vindicate him [tzadko],” that is, Israel, and through Israel magnify and strengthen Torah!
Know that I do not need your light from the way that Solomon built the windows of the Temple. Normally, when a house is built, the windows are made narrower on the outside and wider inside, so that, as exterior light enters, it will illuminate the interior. But Solomon made windows of the Temple the other way: narrower on the inside and wider outside, conducting light from the interior to illuminate the exterior, as was said, “He made for the Temple windows of narrowing frames” (I Kings 6:4)!
RASHI s.v. TALMUD MENACHOT 86b: Wide on the outside and narrow on the inside, their opening was narrow and constricting on the inside. Normally, when a window is placed in a stone wall, it is wider on the inside: the thickness of the wall is slanted on each side so that the thickness of the wall does not prevent the light from shining in to all sides. But in the Temple the inside was made narrower and then gradually wider going out so that the light would emerge from the Temple and illuminate the world!
Therefore, when the Eternal says, “When you raise up [beha’alot’cha]…the Menorah” (Numbers 8:2), He is also saying, “When the Menorah raises you up [beha’alot’cha]…” (Matnot Kehuna, ibid.), as it is the desire of the Eternal “to vindicate him (Israel) and through him magnify and strengthen Torah” (Isaiah 42:21)!
“Arise [koomee]! Shine [oree]!
For your light has come [vah],
and the Presence of the Eternal
does shine [zarach] upon you!”
Moreover, if you are diligent in kindling the lamps before Me, then I shall cast the greatest of light for you in the future, as the Prophet has promised:
“Arise [koomee], O my (own) light [oree],
as Your light comes [vah]—
the Presence of the Eternal
will surely shine [zarach] upon you!”
“Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings, by the splendor of your brightness!”
Exodus Rabbah 35:6
Why did God refer Moses to the pattern
shown to him upon the Mountain?
“See and follow the pattern for them
which you are being shown upon the Mountain.
You shall make the Tabernacle of 10 sheets of twisted fine linen
and of blue and purple and crimson yarns.”
Rabbi Avin taught: This may be compared to a strikingly-handsome king who ordered his courtier to create a faithful image of him. But the courtier protested: My lord, the king, how can I make it true to yourself?! Said the king: If you apply your materials faithfully, I shall be seen in my glory. Thus said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Moses: “See and follow!” But Moses protested: Master of the Universe, am I God that I should be able to create the likenesses of these?! God explained to him: “See and follow their pattern, which you are being shown upon the Mountain,” using your materials of “blue and purple and crimson yarns!”
“You shall make for the Tabernacle
vertical (“standing”) boards of acacia wood.”
Consider what you see above and create a faithful image of it below. Make for the Tabernacle “standing boards of acacia wood” as are found among the divine hosts above, and if you create them to the best of your ability below, then I for My part will leave the assembly above and settle My Presence among you below—and just as above are “standing seraphim” (Isaiah 6:2), so below shall be “standing boards of acacia wood!”
Just as above are stars, so below—Rabbi Chiya bar Abba explained this as teaching that the “gold clasps” (Exodus 26:6) appeared in the Tabernacle as the stars that are seen in the heavens.
Exodus Rabbah 35:3
Teacher’s Extra Credit
“See and execute the pattern for them
which you are being shown upon the Mountain…”
Then follow the details of the furnishing of the Tabernacle, each preceded by the instruction to Moses, “Execute…” (Exodus 26:1ff.)! But did Moses execute the Tabernacle? Is it not written, “Bezalel and Oholiav and every qualified man whom the Eternal granted knowledge and skill to perform the work of the sacred service executed all that the Eternal commanded” (Exodus 36:1)?! Rather Moses’s was the learning and teaching while Bezalel’s was the execution.
Yet execution was commanded to Moses! From this the Rabbis learned to bestow credit upon the one who prepares the doer as much as upon the doer. Indeed we find regarding Moses, that even though Bezalel executed the work of the Tabernacle, the Holy One, blessed be He, credited Moses, as was said, “The Tabernacle of the Eternal, which Moses made in the Wilderness…” (I Chronicles 21:29).
Exodus Rabbah 35:4
The Tabernacle as Security
“You shall make vertical boards for the Tabernacle…”
The Tabernacle is being made of vertical boards, so why did He say “for the Tabernacle [laMishkan]?” He should have said, “You shall make vertical boards the Tabernacle,” omitting “for!”
Rabbi Hoshaya interprets this peculiarity as suggestive of: “You shall make vertical boards (that is, the Tabernacle) to pledge [lemashkeyn] (as security)!” He explains: If Israel’s sins make them worthy of destruction, the Tabernacle or its successor the Temple will serve as security (and therefore be destroyed).
With this understanding of the Tabernacle as security for Israel, Moses asked the Holy One, blessed be He: When in the future they have neither Tabernacle nor Temple, what shall become of them? Said the Holy One, blessed be He: I designate one of their most righteous and pledge him for their sake, atoning over him for their sins. Thus did he say, “He has slain all of those pleasing to the eye in the tent [b’ohel] of the daughter of Zion; He has poured out His anger like fire” (Lamentations 2:4), which we interpret: Against the Tent [b’Ohel] of the Daughter of Zion (the Temple) He poured out His anger…, then He slayed all of those pleasing to the moral eye!
Maharzu explains that the difficulty in understanding the contextual meaning of the verse, that God has slain the pleasing in the tent and then poured out His anger, justifies an interpretation (midrash) which reverses the order of the clauses to yield a more sensible order of events.
Talmud Gittin 68a
Talmud Sotah 48b
Talmud Pesachim 54a
Mishnah Avot 5:6
Mechilta Exodus 20:22
The Stones’ Blessing
“If you make for Me a stone altar, do not use hewn stones,
for by wielding your sword upon it you profane it.”
“King Solomon mandates the quarrying
of massive valuable stones
for the foundation of the House, hewn stone.
(I Kings 5:31)
“Indeed the House was built of stone as it was complete at the quarry
so that no hammer or axe or any iron implement was heard in the House
when it was being built.”
(I Kings 6:7)
Solomon asked the Rabbis: How can I build it without implements of iron? They said to him: You can use the shamir that Moses used to engrave the stones of the Ephod and the Breastplate (cf. Exodus 28:9-21).
Our Rabbis taught that the shamir, no bigger than the size of a barley grain (Rashi: A type of worm), was one of ten things created on the Eve of the Sabbath of Creation, and that no substance, however hard, could stand before it.
Moses would write impermanent marks upon the stones to show the shamir how they should be engraved with the names (cf. Exodus 28:9-11,21) yet without losing any of the stones’ original substance (cf. Exodus 28:20: “in their fulnesses”), whereupon the stones would be split spontaneously.
Thus our Rabbis interpreted the verse, “The House was built of stone as it was complete at the quarry so that no hammer or axe or any iron implement was heard in the House when it was being built” (I Kings 6:7), to imply that Solomon used the shamir to build the Temple.
But according to Rabbi Judah, those words, “The House was built of stone as it was complete at the quarry…,” should be understood just as they are written: that Solomon used stones as they were, that he used no iron implement to cut them.
While Rabbi Nechemiah pointed to the later words: “All of these stones…were cut with a saw” (I Kings 7:9)!
But if they were cut with a saw, then what is the meaning of, “No hammer or axe or any iron implement was heard in the House when it was being built?” These apparently conflicting words provide the Talmudic inference that the quarried stones were cut with a saw outside of the House and then brought in!
Rabbi Judah Hanasi considered the interpretation of Rabbi Judah—that Solomon used stones as they were and therefore used no iron implement to cut them—as applying to the stones for the building of the Temple. And he considered the interpretation of Rabbi Nechemiah—that “all of these stones…were cut with a saw” in accordance with the later verse—as applying to the stones for the building of Solomon’s “own home” (I Kings 7:8).
But according to Rabbi Nechemiah, then, what would have been the purpose of the shamir? It was only used by Moses to engrave the stones of the Ephod (cf. Exodus 28:9-14) and of the Breastplate (cf. Exodus 28:15-21).
Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar taught: The Altar was created to prolong the days of man while the sword of iron (cf. Deuteronomy 27:5) was created to shorten them. It follows then that one should not wield the shortener of life over the prolonger! Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai noted further that the Torah requires the stones of the Altar to be whole: “Build the Altar of the Eternal your God of whole [sheleymot] stones” (Deuteronomy 27:6), stones that enable the wholeness of peace [shalom]. If the Holy One, blessed be He, protects from harm the Altar of inanimate stones because they enable peace between Israel and their Father in heaven, then how much moreso should the living soul who makes peace between one person and another, between husband and wife, between family and family, between city and city, between nation and nation, be protected by our Father in Heaven from all harm!
Copyright © 2023 Eric H. Hoffman