Tuesday, February 25, 2014

why does the Mishkan take up so many pesukim?

The details of the Mishkan span four parshiyos (Terumah, Titzaveh, VaYakhel, Pekudei) and encompass hundreds of pesukim.  The Torah is usually very terse and sparing in its words – why here does it elaborate and repeat the details multiple times?

The Ramban answers that the parsha of the Mishkan shows G-d’s love for the Jewish people.  The eigel had us down and out, but then Hashem have us this special gift to help us achieve kapparah and come back.  Love for the Jewish people is something the Torah wants to elaborate on.
The Kotzker, however, takes the opposite position.  Those of you who have been married for a few years can appreciate that sometimes all it takes is a glance or a small gesture to communicate to one’s spouse what would take a mouthful of sentences to get across to anyone else.  Even I, the densest of husbands, can figure this out.  When Klal Yisrael is close to Hashem, we are like a long married couple.  Rabbi Akiva was able to figure out piles of halachos from even the crowns on each letter.  He didn’t need G-d to spell things out – when you are close, you just know what the other person means.  A similar idea: Chazal (Nedarim 32) tell us that had the first luchos not been broken we would have only needed the chumash and Sefer Yehoshua; all the words of musar from the Nevi’im would have been unnecessary.  It’s when two people are distant that it seems to effort to communicate; it takes words upon words to connect.  The cheit ha’eigel distaned us from G-d.  A crown on a letter was not enough – we needed words and words to communicate, four parshiyos worth.

I have a good library and I know how to do research.  Why are any Rabbis more qualified than me to decide halacha?  An outsider reads a letter sent from a child in camp or in Eretz Yisrael to his/her parents and walks away thinking everything is OK – it says so right there in the letter.  The parent reads the same letter and has a completely different reaction.  “Oy, my Reuvain is depressed….  Oy, my Rivka is not eating enough…”  And so you ask, “But where do you see that in the letter?  It doesn’t say any of that?”  And you would be right – only a parent, a husband and wife, someone who is really close, gets that message from a little postcard, but for you it would take four parshiyos and countless repetition.  It’s not about having a good library, having a CD with more books and being able to do better research.  It’s about being close.


  1. (There is a repeated pattern of my attempting to write a comment, getting a "Google login" screen when I hit "Publish" using my Google profile, and then nothing posted. So I am retrying now, but I don't think I can fully recreate the original.)

    When we discuss the connection between building the Miskan and Shabbos, to make some sense of why the semichus would have us rest from the activities of one as the observance of the other, we routinely invoke the idea that the Mishkan is a microcosm. So, hidden among those words describing the design and building of the Mishkan are the secrets of Maaseh Bereishis, of the metaphysical underpinnings of all of existence. That alone would be more than enough reason for the Torah to discuss the Miskan at length.

    Add to that the notion that the human soul too is a microcosm, and we could be mining these parshiyos for insights into the human condition, our spiritual anatomy as well. Which too would be ample reason for a lengthy discussion.

    The big flaw in the above theory/ies is that I am unaware of anyone who actually takes on the Mishkan to give this kind of explication. Not that I know the kinds of Qabbalistic sources most likely to do so.

  2. >>>So, hidden among those words describing the design and building of the Mishkan are the secrets of Maaseh Bereishis,

    This is true, but why would the Torah spend more time on the microcosm of ma'aseh braishis than on the story of creation itself?

    Not sure why the comments are giving trouble, unless it is a google hiccup.

    1. Perhaps the Torah spends more time on the microcosm than the cosmos itself because it's more useful for people. The actual Maaseh Bereishis lays beyond human comprehension. But the mishkan was a simplified model of creation that humans were capable of understanding well enough to build and yet contains enough to allow us to redeem ourselves.

  3. Another pshat is based on Ramban intro to Shemos that mishkan is to go back to madreiga of the avos, so just like יפה שיחתן של עבדי אבות יותר מתורתן של בנים, and parsha of Eliezer and Rivka are repeated, so too building of mishkan (very similar to Ramban you mentioned)