Thursday, February 11, 2016

kelim without a Mishkan

The gemara (Brachos 55) writes that when Moshe instructed Betzalel to build a Mishkan, he first told him what kelim to make. Betzalel thought to himself that it’s no good to have kelim if you have no place to put them, so he first built the Mishkan. When Moshe saw what Betzalel had done, he remarked that Betzalel’s name is most appropriate, as he must have been “b’tzel K-l,” hidden in the shadows when G-d spoke, as he had intuited exactly what Hashem had commanded, i.e. to first make a Mishkan, and only then to make the kelim.

The obvious question: what was the hava amina? Did Moshe not convey the instructions correctly, or, even more inconceivably, did he misunderstand them, and therefore did not mention the need for a Mishkan before the kelim? Didn’t Moshe realize,as Betzalel had, that there would be no place to put the kelim he was telling Betzalel to make?

A few years
I quoted a yesod from R’ Goldvicht zt”l based on a Seforno, who comments on the pesukim in parshas BeChukosai, “V’nasati mishkani b’sochichem, v’lo tigal nafshi eschem v’halachti b’sochichem v’hiyisem lachem l’Elokim” (VaYikra 27) that these are two separate ideas.   Mishkan is necessary only to avoid “lo tigal nafshi eschem,” G-d being repulsed by our sins, but when things are going well, then “v’hishalachti b’sochichem,” Hashem’s presence is everywhere, not located in a single building or at a single address. The Mishkan is a b’dieved, not an ideal. According to Ramban, the command to build a Mishkan came only after cheit ha’eigel, as a response to sin, not beforehand.

Based on this yesod, we can explain our gemara as follows (see Chasam Sofer): in an ideal world, the klei haMiskan can stand on their own – there is no need for walls to house them in. When there is a state of “v’halachti b’sochichem,” you don’t need a specific place to store your holy kelim – every place and everyone is holy. Moshe presented Betzalel with that ideal. However, when it came time to actually build the Mishkan, Betzalel realized that Klal Yisrael was not on that ideal level. There had to be a building, one place that was holy above and beyond the lower level of the rest of the camp, for without that the kelim would be out of place amidst the mundane.

The gemara (Baba Basra 99) points out a contradiction in the description of the keruvim. One pasuk tells us that they faced each other, but another pasuk tells us that they faced the wall of the bayis. Chazal explain that when Klal Yisrael was doing what Hashem wants, they faced each other, otherwise not. 

The two keruvim represent the Yisachar – Zevulun relationship (Ksav Sofer) or perhaps, according to other meforshim, the relationship between talmidei chachamim. When Bnei Yisrael are not acting correctly, the keruvim turn to face the walls -- when there are walls between people, walls between Bnei Yisrael and Hashem, then there needs to be walls of a Mishkan. However, when Klal Yisrael show concern for each other and do what's right, those keruvim face each other as well, ignoring the walls that are no longer necessary, as Hashem dwells everywhere among us.

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