A Torah Thought for Teens – Parshas Vayakheil-Pikudei
By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Security and Commitment
“Eileh fikudei hamishkan, mishkan ha’eidus – These are the reckonings of the mishkan, the mishkan of [the] testimony (Shmos 38:21).” So begins Parshas Pikudei, which lists a complete computation of the materials and funds donated to the building of the mishkan.
Many of our commentaries note the fact that the word mishkan is repeated (Hamishkan, mishkan) – for some unknown reason, as the Torah could have stated, “Eileh fikudei mishkan ha’eidus – these are the reckonings of the mishkan of [the] testimony. Why, then, the repetition?
The Ramban offers a pragmatic reason for the double listing of the word mishkan. Earlier in Sefer Shmos, the Torah uses the word mishkan in a different context – as one of the coverings of the mishkan (See Shmos 35:11). Therefore, the Torah needed to explain that Moshe’s accounting was for the entire mishkan and all its kelim, not merely that one covering.
Rebbeinu Bechaya offers a more spiritual line of reasoning. We are familiar with the concept that there is a mishkan shel ma’aloh – a mirror image of the physical mishkan in the heavens. Although this is certainly a difficult concept to grasp, the simple understanding of this is that Hashem’s presence on Earth is ‘concentrated’ in the mishkan, while His Shechinah is similarly present in the heavens directly above the mishkan here on earth. Therefore, the word mishkan is repeated to allude to this lofty concept.
Our Torah Thought for this week will concentrate on a third p’shat regarding this repetition – based on the approach of Rashi.
Rashi, quoting a Midrash Tanchuma, offers a dramatically different explanation – one that carries almost ominous overtones. The word mishkan, when read without punctuation can also be pronounced as mashkon, commonly translated as collateral. (Collateral is something of value that is often given by a borrower to a lender to assure prompt payment of a loan.) In this context, the Torah alludes to the fact that the two batei mikdash were used as ‘collateral’ against the actions of Klal Yisroel. When the Jews sinned to Hashem in later generations, the two batei mikdash were taken from them as ‘collateral’ (or a mashkon) and so to speak ‘held’ by Hashem until they would do teshuvah.
A Discordant Note – or Two
An understandable reaction when reading the commentary of Rashi might be, “What a depressing thought”! Additionally, we may wonder why we need to describe the destruction of the beis hamikdash at this joyous moment. At this uplifting moment in our history when we approach the climax of the completion of the mishkan and revel in the guarantee that Hashem will rest His presence among us, why do we need to introduce such an ominous and sad warning – that we will lose the mishkan and beis hamikdash if we are to sin in the future?
Allow me to digress for a moment and ask another, perhaps similar, question. Why do we read the kesubah (marriage document) aloud during the chuppah portion of the marriage ceremony? That thought often crosses my mind as I listen to it being read at weddings before the hundreds of assembled guests. After all, most of the kesubah is rather depressing. Part of the kesubah lays out the financial and emotional commitments that the husband makes to his bride. But a good portion of the kesubah also discusses ‘Plan B’ – the financial obligations of the husband to support his wife in the event of divorce or if he passes away! Why in the world would we read this in public at a wedding? Imagine the reactions of the assembled guests if a prenuptial agreement with all its financial details were read in public at a wedding ceremony!
A Solemn and Eternal Commitment
While the two themes noted above are certainly not exactly the same, I would like to draw a parallel between them – one that speaks volumes about Hashem’s love and commitment to us, His Chosen People.
When one enters a short-term arrangement, such as taking a hotel room or renting a car, a simple and relatively short document is prepared, listing the fees and terms. The customer signs the papers, usually without even reading them. However, when one purchases a home or enters into a long-term business partnership, the process is much more solemn and complicated. Documents are drawn and read carefully by all parties and their attorneys.
Even if it sounds counterintuitive, the fact that such care is given to a discussion of so many details – and exit strategies – only speaks to the level of commitment of the interested parties. In fact, I personally find the most beautiful words of the kesubah to be where the chosson (groom) vows to treat his kallah (bride) with dignity and commits to supporting her financial needs during his lifetime and even after his death. What a wonderful expression of everlasting affection and commitment! (No wonder people cry at weddings!)
During the most solemn moment of the wedding ceremony, the chosson proclaims that the relationship that he is entering is sacred and long term and that his obligations to his kallah extend even beyond the time that they live together.
Hashem’s Love For His Children
Viewed through this lens, Rashi’s understanding of the opening pasuk of this week’s parsha is a comforting expression of Hashem’s love for us. It is most certainly sad to consider the fact that the batei mikdash will be taken from us due to our sins. But Hashem declares that His commitment to us is eternal and everlasting. In fact, the batei mikdash, His homes, will be destroyed, rather than His people, chas v’shalom, when and if they sin.
When we inaugurated the mishkan and entered a new, enhanced phase of our relationship with Hashem, (which interestingly is compared to a wedding ceremony by our Chazal), we are assured of His eternal bond with His children.
Hashem informs us that he would rather destroy His own ‘home’, and use it as ‘collateral’ than do anything that would jeopardize the continuity of Am Yisroel.
Best wishes for a Gutten Shabbos
© 2006 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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