There are various materials the Mishkon is made of: metals are copper, silver and gold. Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch explains these metals correspond to: base metal; a metal (silver) that needs refinement; and a metal that begins with more purity (gold) but also undergoes purifying. As you purify these (through heat), they become purer. That is what folks are like, needing refinement, and each on our level, based on what we might become, go through heat given by G-d (think life tests) in order to refine us. Copper and gold, those were voluntary donations. The silver was, (see RASHI), a set amount per person that had to be given – which was the half-shekel silver piece we talked about last week.
Wool and linen were used to make the clothing and hangings in the Tabernacle. Wool represents animal kingdom and linen the plant kingdom. As a general rule, we don’t entwine these two elements together, because both together are the gamut of all physicality and we don’t want to get entirely lost in physicality, steeped in both ends of the spectrum at the same time. But in the Mishkan, these two elements WERE combined and worn by the Kohain – as a message that these two physical elements are meant to serve G-d, and when we are entirely focused on G-d then it would be okay to make full use of physicality.
Other things collected at this point: leather/skins, oil, spices and precious stones.
G-d says “and they shall make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them.” It should say that G-d will dwell in IT – not in them. The commentators speak of this, that each person has to treat their bodies as a sanctuary for G-d for there is a G-dliness that dwells within us if we behave properly.
The commandment to build the Aron – the Ark. It was made of three boxes, one inside the other – the inner one was pure gold, then came a wood, then came another layer of gold. The Aron held the Luchos, the commandments. We learn from the construction of the case, that a person who wants to be a vessel for holiness should work on making his outside and inside equally gold. You can’t have behavior one way and thought another. Your heart and mind and your actions should the same gold.
Protruding from one of the gold boxes was a “circlet of gold” – the exact wording is Zar Zahav. Zar really means strange – alienation. What does the circlet of gold on the Aron have to do with alienation? In order to protect our Holiness, we do have to enforce some sense of alienation to the outside world – like a sort of fence between the baseness and corruption and that which is holy. (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch)
Since the Tabernacle/Mishkan was constructed in the desert during our travels, it was a movable, modular structure. Many of the vessels had rods used for carrying it that were removed once they set up camp again. The ark/Aron had four rings on the corners and through these rings were rods used to carry the Aron. However, these rods were never taken out, even when the Aron was placed down. There are few things we learn from this. The most glaring one is that a Jew must always be ready to carry his values from place to place. Jews take our values with us from one place of exile to another and we have to always be prepared for that, in how we teach ourselves and our children.
The Chofetz Chaim tells us another wonderful lesson we glean from the fact that the rods never came out. People who support Talmidei Chachamim are like the rods, carrying the Torah forward by supporting those who learn it. Therefore, they will never be separated from that Torah – in the next world, they will get equal Schar/reward to those who learned the Torah and understand all the Torah that they enabled to be learned.
The top of the Aron had two Cherubs (Keruvim), faces like children, body like man and woman with wings spread out. Tzror HaMor says that they represent the children of Klal Yisroel to show us that as long as there are children in Klal Yisroel learning Torah, that merit is like wings protecting us.
The Aron was miraculous in that when we were behaving and had peace in our nation amongst ourselves, the Keruvim faced each other. When the Jews had infighting, then Hashem was displeased with us and the Keruvim would miraculously face away from each other. We learn here that Hashem wants us to “look at each other” to support and care for each other and that is precisely when Hashem loves us most.
The Shulchan was a table that held twelve loaves of bread (“Lechem Hapanim”) representing the twelve Shevatim/tribes. The breads had to look like it was concerned more with supporting the top bread then with its own shape – the word shulchan from the word shlach – to send forth – our prosperity should lead us to be more concerned with supporting each other than ourselves. Yet, there were tubes that kept the weight of one from breaking the others. Even in our concern for each other, we should never deplete ourselves to empty (Ethics of the Fathers: If I am not for myself, who is for me – and when I am for myself alone, what am I?). The Lechem Hapanim had to be baked in pairs – no one should be a loner in the Jewish world – we are interdependent.
The Menorah, which represents learning, had all branches facing inwards to the one central branch. All intellectual pursuit and Torah study is not about honing our brains. It should be facing one center branch, the truth of G-d.
Curtains and skin coverings. The boards for the walls were made from the “shitim” wood, a non-fruit-bearing tree. Buildings themselves have no fruit. It is what goes on inside of them that gives it productivity. To just build ornate edifices is not the end goal.
The skins used were from animals called techashim – these were animals that became extinct – -they were only created for the use of building the Mishkan and, once that was done, no longer needed in the world. They were probably the animal from where secular society got the idea of unicorns. They had one horn in the middle of their forehead and had fur that was multi-colored.
The Altar – for the courtyard
There were two Mizbachos/altars in the Mishkan. One was outside, filled with earth, on which the animals were brought as Karbanos. It was made of Nechoshes – copper. Inside the Tabernacle was the Zahav/gold one which was not used for the animal sacrifices. We have to realize that there is an outside physicality to us and an inner spirituality. So on a Shabbos, we take care of the physicality, the outside, with food and clothing, just like the outside Mizbayach/altar had animals used to connect to G-d. However, we can’t forget there was inside another altar used for Ketores, for incense. Smell is not an outside thing, it’s a taking in to ourselves (intake of breath AHH). So too, in our Mitzvos there is an inwards part of it, too – and that is the focus and the thoughts. Shabbos, yes, we have the outside trappings of Challah, but we also have to have an inside service…we have to be thinking of connecting with G-d (intake of spiritual concepts AHHH).
Now that we have no Mishkan or Bais Hamikdash (Temple), we use our homes as a “mikdash Me’at”(a small Temple) – our home is the place where we have to set up an atmosphere to connect to Hashem. Just as the Mishkan/Tabernacle had to be built with wisdom and with intentions of setting up the best connection to Hashem, each one of us women have to use wisdom in setting up a home atmosphere that promotes a connection with Hashem. Look around at your home every now and then and do a spot check – is this home housing spirituality? Can you sense it? Is it set up in a way to facilitate Mitzvos?
May we, one and all, merit to build small Temples full of spirituality in our homes, so that someday soon, we merit to see the building of the really colossal one.