The Mishkan was a direct response to the sin of the Golden Calf. (The Parsha we will study in two weeks.) The Jews sinned with the Golden Calf; therefore, G-d commanded them to build a sanctuary. The sanctuary would be the one place on earth unchanged by the sin of the Golden Calf and worthy of housing G-d’s manifest presence. As we explained in last week’s Rabbi’s Notebook, the Jewish mission was to affect world redemption, not just Jewish freedom. The 210 years in Egypt allowed the family of Yakov to grow into a nation. The purpose of the Exodus was for the nation to receive the Torah. The Torah is the manual of G-d’s wishes and it is the Chosen People’s obligation to study the manual and teach the other nations what their responsibilities are in relation to G-d. The method of teaching is primarily by example. Therefore, the Jewish nation must live exemplary lives founded on the principles of the Torah and focused on facilitating Tikun Olam (fixing the world redemption) for the entire world.
Prior to the sin of the Golden Calf each Jew was a living example of what it meant to have been created in the image of G-d. To be created in the image of the G-d is to be able to emulate G-d’s actions. To the extent that the Jew follows the Torah is the extent to which the Jew emulates G-d. In essence, there was no reason for a Mishkan – sanctuary to contain G-d’s presence. G-d truly resided within the hearts and beings of the Jewish people. Wherever a Jew was, G-d should have been self-evident; however, because of the sin of the Golden Calf, G-d withdrew from within the beings of every Jew and secreted Himself behind the facade of nature.
G-d did not destroy the Jewish nation because they sinned with the Golden Calf; instead, He allowed Moshe to persuade Him to give them a second chance. It was a second chance for the Jews to become the nation that after receiving the Torah and adhering to its laws would teach the other nations what their responsibilities were and affect Tikun Olam world redemptio
The fundamental difference between before the sin of the Golden Calf and after the sin of the Golden Calf was indicated when G-d commanded Moshe to quarry his own tablets and ascend the mountain. “Quarry for yourself two stone tablets.” The first Luchos (tablets) were fashio
The difference between the first and second Luchos is the degree of active human involvement. The verse in Tehilim (Psalms) says, “G-d created me with a pure heart and a proper spirit.” Rav Dessler explains that Torah G-d’s wisdom G-d’s law â
The desired method is for an individual to accept the Torah directly into his heart and by-pass the “why” process. Rav Dessler did not mean that Torah would be miraculously coded into the soul of a person. The individual would still have to understand what was being taught; however, it would not require any other intellectualization. Acceptance and adherence would be automatic.
Rav Dessler gives the example of G-d teaching Moshe the entire Torah in 40 days. Given the unlimited quality and quantity of the Torah it is impossible to study the entire Torah in a limited amount of time. The Medresh even states that Moshe was unable to understand and remember what G-d had taught him. Therefore, the entire Torah was gifted to Moshe. It bypassed the “Why” process because the pure heart is able to bypass the Why process. Before the sin of the Golden Calf the Jews were on the level of the “pure heart.” (The meaning of Naaseh V’Nishmah)
Moshe’s intended method of teaching would have been exactly as the Jews demanded, “You speak to us and we will hear.
The first set of Luchos was predicated on the preferred method of learning. Just as Moshe was gifted the Torah so too the Jews would have been gifted the Torah. All they would have needed to do is willingly listen and accept. Reason and rational would have been irrelevant. Furthermore, the same way they would have learned is the same way they would have taught. Reason and rational would not have been necessary for teaching the rest of the world and affecting Tikun Olam. All the Jews would have had to do is act in accord with the Mitzvos. The rest of the world would have seen the manner of their lifestyle and would have accepted to do the same. Reason and rational would have been irrelevant. They would have seen proof of its veracity in the manner that the Torah was being performed. “Why” would have been irrelevant.
Following the sin of the Golden Calf the Jews were no longer on the level of the “pure heart.” They had once again demanded to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Simply knowing that it was or was not the will of G-d was not enough. They needed to know why. Therefore, the preferred method for teaching could no longer work. Instead, Moshe had to fashion his own Luchos and learn a new way to transmit the truths of G-d’s wishes. He was now dealing with a nation that needed to know why. That Therefore, Moshe had to stay on the mountain another 40 days and nights. The Torah had to be re-taught to him using the second method.
Just as Moshe needed to learn new methods and tools for teaching the nation so too the nation needed new methods and tools for teaching the rest of the world. The original method of doing whatever G-d commanded and the rest of the world observing and doing likewise would no longer work. The nation wanted to understand and the other nations would want the same; therefore, G-d commanded them to build the Mishkan.
Let’s review the chronology of events. The Exodus was on the 15th of Nissan, 2448 and the Parting of the Sea was seven days later. Revelation was seven weeks after the Exodus on the sixth of Sivan, 2448. At that moment the nation heard and accepted their mission of being the kingdom of priests and a holy nation and affecting Tikun Olam. The moment of Revelation was the voice of G-d and only the voice of G-d. G-d had not yet given Moshe the Luchos.
Moshe ascended the mountain on the seventh of Sivan, 2448 and descended 40 days later on the 17th day of Tamuz, 2448. He observed the Jews worshiping the Golden Calf, broke the first Luchos, and punished the sinners. On the 18th of Tamuz, 2448 Moshe ascended Sinai to beseech G-d’s forgiveness and stayed another 40 days. He returned on the 30th day of Av, 2448 and was instructed to fashion the second Luchos and re-ascend the next day, Rosh Chodesh Ellul, 2448. Moshe was re-taught the Torah during the next 40 days and descended for the last time on Yom Kippur, the tenth of Tishrei, 2448 bearing the second Luchos. On the 11th of Tishrei G-d commanded the Jews to build the Mishkan.
The Mishkan was a microcosm of the universe. It was to be a living, breathing, example of what the world could and should have looked like if only the Jews had not sinned with the Golden Calf. (See Sefer Haparshios) The idea was a simple one – actions speak louder than words and the most powerful teaching tool will always be “by-example.” The Mishkan was “by-example.” The Kohanim (priests) would serve in the Mishkan / Bais Hamikdash and show the rest of the nation / world what it meant to live by the word of G-d, regardless of reason or rational. Every action would count; every thought would count; and every vessel and ceremony would be infused with the singular purpose of serving G-d. In turn, the nation would attempt to emulate the Kohanim and the other nations would attempt to emulate the Chosen People.
Avraham had two sons, Yishmael and Yitzchak. Yitzchak was designated as, “Your son, your only son, the son that you love, Yitzchak.” In truth, Yitzchak was Avraham’s only son from Sarah. Yishmael was the son of Hagar. Avraham’s chosen mission was to bring redemption to the entire world. He was blessed to be the “Father of many nations.” He was the father of Yitzchak, Yishmael, and Eisav. Basically, the three great religious forces in the world emanated from Avraham. Yet, only Yitzchak would assume the mission of facilitating Tikun Olam.
Two weeks ago we posed the following questions. 3. How does the conflict between Hagar and Sarah figure into Tikun Olam? 4. What part did the Akeida play in sharpening the focus of the Jewish mission and advancing Tikun Olam?
Tikun Olam has been the focus of everything since the sin of Adam and Chava; however, only Avraham assumed the obligation of advancing G-d’s purpose for creation. What should have been the obligation of every human being was gifted to Avraham and his children. The gift was the obligation of teaching the truth of G-d’s reality and wishes to an otherwise denying or ignorant world. To do so they had to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Avraham’s appointment to the job of teacher was a process of designation and volunteerism. G-d did not have to eliminate anyone – they eliminated themselves! It was only Avraham who volunteered for the job. Teaching presumes teachers wiling to teach and students willing to learn. Teachers must be identified as teachers so that students know who they are. Once identified, teachers must embrace their designation and the training necessary to become effective teachers.
Sarah demanded that Avraham put the pregnant Hagar in her place. Hagar needed to know that her destiny as the possible mother of the Chosen People demanded that she subject herself to Sarah’s training and teaching. Hagar was unwilling to do so and fled into the desert. She encountered the Angel at the well and was told that although she would not be the mother of the Jewish people she would be the mother of a great nation. That mothering job also required that she return and do exactly what Sarah demanded. Although Yishmael would choose to not follow Avraham’s footsteps as a facilitator of Tikun Olam, he still would be part of the process. Remember, Tikun Olam was not just for Jews; it was for the entire world. In order for the great nation emanating from Yishmael to participate in Tikun Olam they had to be ready to accept Yitzchak and his children as the teachers.
The same was true when Sarah demanded that Avraham send away Hagar and Yishmael. Sarah knew that the time had come for Yishmael to be cut from the apron strings and be allowed to do his own thing. Yitzchak was also becoming old enough to be influenced by Yishmael, for better and for worse; therefore, Yishmael had to leave so that Yitzchak could become the chosen teacher. Anything less would have changed the destiny of the world. Yitzchak would not have become the teacher he became or the father of the teachers he was destined to be. In the end, Sarah’s seeming harshness was the greatest kindness she could have done for Yitzchak, Yishmael, and the entire world.
Thirty-four years later, at the Akeidah (binding), Avraham told Yishmael and Eliezar, his two most beloved non-Jewish students that they must stay behind with the donkeys while he and Yitzchak ascend the Temple Mount in search of designation. They ascended the cloud enshrouded Moriah prepared to sacrifice themselves for the pure cause of accepting and doing the incomprehensible commandment of G-d. The Angel halted Avraham’s blade and the test was completed. Avraham had proven that he truly was the chosen one and Yitzchak had proven that he was the one to carry on the mission. Therefore, the final words of the Angel were, “And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring. Why? Because you have listened to my voice.”
From the Akeidah to the Mishkan was 367 years. The Mizbeach that occupied center stage in the Mishkan would one day stand on the exact spot that Avraham had offered Yitzchak as an offering to G-d. The message was the same. Just as the Akeidah proved Yitzchak’s worthiness to be the progenitor of Tikun Olam so too would his children continue to prove their worthiness on the same mountain and at the exact spot.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley Village, CA.