The Mishkan Man

Pekudei

After many weeks of skilled effort all the components of the Mishkan were now complete. The actual building, the Keilim and their accompanying utensils had been smelted, carved, fashioned and engraved. The clothes were woven and stitched. The Mishkan was ready to be assembled. However, the people reached an impasse, they could not build the Mishkan – it was too heavy.

Since Moshe had done no work in forming the Mishkan, Hashem left him the task of erecting the Mishkan. Wasn’t it too heavy for Moshe? It was. Moshe said to Hashem, “How is it possible for a human being to erect the Mishkan?” G-d replied, “You just work with your hand.” Moshe appeared to be building it, but in truth it arose by itself. (Rashi, Shemos 39:33)

Question

From this narrative it seems clear that the Mishkan had to be set up by one person, and one person only; otherwise why couldn’t a few people together join hands and raise the structure? Throughout their sojourn in the desert it was dismantled and reassembled by the Levites, in all probability as a team. So why did the initial erection have to be done singlehandedly?

This is all the more perplexing because it was an impossible feat for a body to achieve, as Moshe queried “How is it possible”. And yet this is the only way to establish this edifice. Why was it critical that one person alone was to erect the Tabernacle even if this requires supernatural assistance?

Background to the Solution

Man, the world and the Mishkan are three things that parallel each other. Let’s explore:

1. Man and Mishkan. Man correlates with the Mishkan for the Sanctuary was a macrocosm of a human being. The Kabbalists expound upon this at length but we will provide just one illustration.

There were three stages of intense holiness found in the Mishkan, starting with the Courtyard progressing to the Holy and culminating with the Holy of Holies.

Similarly there are three levels within a person, the highest is the head, the head houses the brain, capability of speech and is home to the Neshomoh. Of lesser rank are the vital organs, such as the heart, lungs and kidneys. The lowest level is the body from the navel and down. (See Rabbeinu Bechai Shemos 25:9, See also Ibn Ezra 25:40)

2. Man and Universe. Man equals the entire world. In contrast to animals of whom multiples were created only a single human was formed, to school us that the whole world is worth creating for one person. This idea was communicated to witnesses who testified in capital cases, in order to impress upon them the value of just one human life.

Man was created alone, to teach us that whoever destroys a single Jewish soul, is culpable as though he had destroyed the entire world, and whoever rescues a single Jewish soul ascribes merit as if he preserved the entire world. (Sanhedrin 37a)

3. Universe and Mishkan. The Mishkan powered and energized the entire world. The service within had cosmic ramifications. All the divine energy that Hashem bestowed upon this planet, was channeled via the Mishkan. For example, the weekly changing of the Showbread on Shabbos day, inspired greater prosperity in the material affairs of Man. This service had a positive influence on the ‘bread’ of the entire universe.

Answer

Hashem wanted to impress upon us the value of Man and his equivalence to the world. Just as the world was created with just one Man, Adam Horishon, the Mishkan which was a macrocosm of Man had to be erected by one man, Moshe Rabeinu. Only one person was involved in the initial setting up the ‘Mishkan world’, because each and every person equals a Mishkan. Even if miraculous intervention is necessary to engender this result, so be it, this is vital, because Man is a Mishkan.

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