Sunday, March 05, 2006

Why is the construction of the Mishkan given so much detail in the Torah?

This question has bothered me for years. The Torah goes into tremendous detail about the construction of the mishkan not once but twice, once the command and once the actual building. The obvious question is what is this coming to tell us? Why does the Torah give so much detail here when most mitzvos get almost no detail. Just a few examples
1. tefillin has 1 vague pasuk from which we can understand little
2. The torah says don't do melacha on shabbos and never defines melacha (in Torah Shebicsav)
3. The torah says many times to shcecht but never explains what shechita is.
In short, most mitzvos have very little in teh Torah Shebicsav, most of teh mitzva is expounded in Torah Shebaal Peh, the contruction of teh mishkan on the other hand has tremendous detail in the Chumash.

What makes this even more troubling is that the construction of the mishkan was a horaas shaah. The mitzvah ledoros is to build the Beis Hamikdash, if so why does the Torah go into all this detail about building the mishkan?

I have not seen a good answer for this. Any answers would be appreciated.

8 comments:

almost_frei said...

IMHO, building the mishkon was essential to creating the jewish community. That is why the torah places so much emphasis on this structure and everything in it. However once we have a community established, we can sort out by ourselves the details of halacha (as we have done through the ages)

Jewish Exile said...

Because Shmot is all about establishing the brit between God and Am Yisrael, beginning with the physical redemption from Egypt, through the brit ceremony surrounding matan torah (and understanding what it means to have a brit with God), and culminating in the continuation of matan torah: the dwelling of God among am yisrael through the mishkan, that serves as both a testemant to the brit at sinai (luchot ha'eidut), but also as a continous connection between us and God (ohel mo'ed, where God addresses Moshe on new situations as they arise). It is all about the relationsip between us and God, to which the dwelling of the shchina is essential and central.

bluke said...

This does not explain the great detail given to the construction of the mishkan especially versus other mitzvos.

Anonymous said...

I hear. It does answer why the mishkan is the theme of the latter part of shemot, though.

bluke said...

Exactly, the overwhelming detail and the fact that the same detail is repeated again when the mishkan is built needs explanation.

Moish said...

Bluke:
I am not sure if this will answer all your questions but check out this link.
http://victorian.fortunecity.com/brutalist/608/20teruma.html

M

C- Girl said...

Here's how my daughter & I have been learning it:

The descriptions of the introduction to, and building of, the Mishkan are in stark contrast to the two references to the making of the golden calf. In the instance of the calf, everyone got together and yelled at Aharon to "make [them] a god". And Aharon said, "yeah, okay, I guess." And all the guys got all their jewelry together, and a person, referred to, essentially, as "some guy", made the golden calf through means that aren't really of interest to the text, at least at that point.

So a little later on, but not later enough, Moshe comes down from the mountain, Hashem has a major fit, and the official explanation for the whole thing is given by Aharon as "it just sorta, like, happened. I, like, threw some gold into the fire and it just, like, sorta came out like this." Which, if you were to ask a parent of a teenager, means "oh, sh*t am I in trouble. So I'll just act cool about it, feign non-involvement, and hope it all blows over before the weekend."

But the building of the Mishkan was certainly not to be seen as some sort of folly. Just as with the golden calf, we see a mad scramble to throw as much raw material as possible into the construction, but restraint is demanded by Hashem. And in case "some guy" were to consider getting involved again, Hashem cuts him off at the pass by specifically naming Betzalel as the foreman of the project and specifying what is to be in the hearts of those who provide certain types of labor.

Now, why is the Mishkan built in the first place? My teacher pointed out that Hashem has already proven that an ordinary burning bush is a perfectly fine accomodation, so why all the skins, wool, linen, gold, acacia wood, etc?

I was taught a Midrash that says that Hashem pointed out that He needed no actual physical dwelling, it was the people who needed it in order to feel that they had accorded their ruler the proper accoutrements. So in order to reign them in, especially considering that they were prone to "go off" when confronted with a creative challenge ("moo"), Hashem told them that they could have all the stuff they wanted, just so long as they did it only as He commanded. And somewhere toward the end of Pikudei, it actually says, paraphrased, that when Moshe saw that the people had done the work as Hashem had commanded, he (Moshe) blessed them.

Now, for some reason, Hashem really liked the idea that the people were putting in actual work, work specified in painstaking detail by Hashem himself. In fact, He liked this work so much that He made it a sin to do the work that was required to build the Mishkan, on Shabbat- drawing parallels between the building of the Mishkan and the creation of the world.

The lesson that we were taught from this is that work brings about holiness. That is to say, it isn't enough to loaf around all week and then eat cholent on Shabbos and say, "there, I'm set." You need to, essentially, *earn* Shabbos by doing some melachos during the week. You've got to be willing to get your hands dirty in order for Hashem's presence to want to reside in your Mishkan.

Phil said...

I wish I had time to report all I saw, but Nehama Liebowitz has lots to say on this in her sefer.