Weekly Dvar Torah: Erecting the Tabernacle – the Mishkan
Google translates tab·er·nac·le, noun (as in the biblical use of the word Mishkan), a fixed or movable habitation, typically of light construction.
Good for google. In the fast-paced world that we live in, thanks to google, that’s a great translation. But really, is tabernacle the true translation of the original word ‘Mishkan’?
Honestly, no! There’s nothing more misrepresentative of the word Mishkan, than Google’s translation.
It is true, that while traveling in the desert, to accommodate the constant erecting and dismantling of the temple 42 times in 38 years, the Mishkan sort of a temporary structure, as it was made of hides, portable beams, and Lego style connections. Google you may have a point there.
The true translation of Mishkan is, a dwelling place. G-d asked us to create a dwelling place for Him in this physical mundane world. A home, made of brick and mortar, where G-d’s presence will be visible to the naked eye.
Where in the Temple could you notice G-d’s presence?
For starters, when Aaron the priest would kindle the lights in the Menorah, he would kindle all seven lights at the same time in the evening, by pouring a half ‘loog’ of oil in each one of the cups in the candelabra. However, while six of the candles extinguished by the morning, one candle (the second most eastern one) remained alight till the next lighting, 24 hours later. And this happened every single day. What a miracle, one candle burns double the time then its six compatriots. While six lasted for 12 hours, this one lasted and burned for 24 hours.
Then there was the Holy Ark in the Holy of Holy’s. The Ark measured two and a half cubits north to south, and the entire Holy of Holy’s measured 20 cubits north to south. But, when you measured the space from the northern wall till the Ark it measured 10 cubits, and when you measured from the southern wall to the Ark it also measured 10 cubits. So, if the Ark itself measured 2-1/2 cubits, what happened to that space when you measured from wall to wall? It was still the identical 20 cubits like when you measured from wall to Ark on either side. Miraculous!
When the Jewish people came to the Temple in Jerusalem 3 times a year, to worship during the Holy-days. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, came together for the service. There was no room to stick in a needle, as the Mishna describes; they were standing squashed, but when they bowed down, there was enough space for all to bow comfortably, so that they can confess outside the earshot of the neighbor. Wow, this is absolutely miraculous!
All this happened because G-d wanted to demonstrate His existence in this physical space, which had very specific details and measurements. While within this space, G-d demonstrated His power to supersede all limitations of space and time.
This is the purpose and the goal of the Holy Temple; to let all know and see with the naked eye, the presence of the infinite G-d in this finite world.
The structure of the Temple served as G-d’s home in the macrocosm. Similarly, and most importantly, the human being serves as G-d’s home in the microcosm. G-d says; make me a Mikdash and I will dwell in THEM, in the people, not in IT, in the structure. Therefore, when there is no Temple in the Macrocosm, the only temple that remains is the one in the microcosm, in us humans. G-d needs a presence in this world, and the location is inside us. To allow G-d inside ourselves is doable, it is up to no one but ourselves.
Let’s open up and allow G-d His place in this world, US!
Have a G-dly Shabbos, celebrate with G-d.
Rabbi Yosef Katzman