Parashas Vayakhel

This week’s parashah deals with the building of the Mishkan. The Midrash relates (Shemos Rabbah 34:1, end):
When the Holy One Blessed Be He said to Moshe (Shemos 25:8), “Make Me a sanctuary,” he broke out in wonder: “The glory of the Holy One Blessed Be He fills the heavenly realm and the earthly realm, and He is telling me, ‘Make Me a sanctuary’?” Moreover, he looked out [with prophetic vision] and saw Shlomo standing and building the Beis HaMikdash, which was larger than the Mishkan, and saying before the Holy One Blessed Be He (Melachim Alef 8:27): “Will God indeed dwell on earth?” Moshe declared: “If in the case of the Beis HaMikdash, which is much larger than the Mishkan, Shlomo speaks thus, how much more so with the Mishkan!” … Said the Holy One Blessed Be He: “Not as you think do I think. Rather, [just] twenty planks on the north side, twenty on the south side, and eight on the west side. Moreover, I will descend and contract My Presence into a space of a cubit by a cubit” [the dimensions of the luchos, which were contained within the aron].
In explaining this Midrash, the Maggid turns to the following saying (Sanhedrin 7a): “When our love was strong, we could lie down together on the breadth of a sword. Now that our love is not strong, a bed of sixty cubits is not enough for us.” As “proof” of this saying, the Gemara points out the small size of the Mishkan and the large size of the Beis HaMikdash, and notes that Hashem eventually disparaged the Beis HaMikdash, declaring (Yeshayah 66:1): “The heavens are My throne, and the earth is My footstool. What house could you build for Me?”
Although the Gemara’s analogy is apparently just rhetorical, the Maggid draws from it an important insight about what it means to speak of the Divine Presence dwelling in a specific place. In truth, we have no real grasp of Hashem’s nature or of where He is “situated.” As the Zohar relates, the angels declare: “Where is the place of His glory?” But our Sages tell us that the Divine Presence abides where the Jewish People show their love of Hashem: The one depends on the other. When the Jewish People show love for Hashem, their love creates a spiritual space in which the Divine Presence can rest. Thus, the degree of love that the Jewish People show for Hashem determines whether the space available for the Divine Presence is large or small.
Moshe’s wonder over the small size of the Mishkan was due to a concern that the Jewish People’s love of Hashem might diminish. The space available for the Divine Presence would then be very small. Hashem answered him: “Not as you think do I think.” Hashem designed of the Mishkan under the assumption that the Jewish People would show Him a supreme degree of love.
Indeed, at the time the Mishkan was built, the Jewish People were ready to give all they had for Hashem, even to the point of death. Thus, it is written (Shir HaShirim 8:6): “For strong to the death is my love.” Hence, the room for the Divine Presence within the Mishkan was great. Although the Mishkan was small in physical size, it was expansive in quality and eminence due to the great love of Hashem that the Jews had. When the Beis HaMikdash was built, the Jewish People’s love of Hashem was weaker, and hence less room for the Divine Presence was available. So the final word on the Beis HaMikdash was a declaration of its limitedness (Yeshayah 66:1, quoted above): “What house could you build for Me?”
Hashem specifically chose gold, silver, and other precious items as building materials for the Mishkan in order to give the Jewish People a chance to show their great love for Him by offering to Him the possessions they most cherished. The people responded superbly to Hashem’s call: As our parashah relates, they eagerly contributed the requisite items, ultimately bringing more than needed. Hashem’s plan and the Jewish People’s response is reflected in Shir HaShirim 3:9-10. The passage begins: “The King, the Master of Peace, made for Himself a canopy of Lebanon wood. He made its pillars of silver, its couch of gold, and its curtains of purple wool.” This segment describes Hashem dictating that the Mishkan be made of precious materials. The passage then concludes by describing the result: “Its interior was decked with love, from the daughters of Jerusalem.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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