Difficult to Connect

In this week’s parsha, Vayakhel, we read of the completion of the construction of the Tabernacle, known in Hebrew as the Mishkan.  The Mishkan was the portable sanctuary which the Jews constructed while travelling in the desert.  It was able to be assembled and disassembled at need.  After it was no longer needed (because the Temple was constructed), it was permanently stored away.

Year after year, we continue to read about the directives and actual construction of the Mishkan.  In fact, the details comprise basically an entire four parshas in the Torah.  Given that the Mishkan no longer exists today, but it will never exist again, because it was supplanted and replaced by the Temple!

What is the purpose of the unusually lengthy recounting of all the details of the Mishkan?  Details which seemingly have no relevance today!

Let us first discuss some of the differences between the Mishkan and the Temple.

  • The Mishkan was temporary in two ways: 1. It was portable; 2. It no longer exists;
  • Each Temple was a permanent structure, and although they were both destroyed, the Third Temple will be permanent;
  • The Mishkan existed primarily in the desert;
  • The Temple was built in Jerusalem

Seemingly, due to its permanence and central location, the Temple was the more important structure.  When Jews pray three times daily for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, they are not requesting that a new Mishkan be built, but that the Third Temple be constructed!

However, as with anything else, we can also take an alternative perspective and suggest that in certain ways, the Mishkan was actually superior, and this is why we read its lengthy description year after year, even though it has seemingly lost its relevance.

Whereas the Temple was built after the Jews had arrived in the Holy Land, the Mishkan stood in the desert.  In spiritual terms, a desert represents a place devoid of holiness – much like an actual desert is (largely) devoid of life.  Just as (generally speaking) people do not live in a desert, so too, the “Supernal Man” (a kabbalistic reference to G-d) does not “dwell” there.

Thus, to construct the Mishkan in the desert was to bring holiness to the brink of civilization and the farthest reaches of society.  This is something that the Temple did not accomplish.

Even though, as mentioned above, we pray for the rebuilding of the Temple and not the Mishkan, but nevertheless it is specifically the Mishkan which has spiritual relevance to us today.

We may often feel that we live in a world devoid of holiness and spirituality.  It often seems difficult to “connect”.  In many ways, today we live in a spiritual “desert.”

Yet the message of the Mishkan is that when one finds oneself in a desert, it is simply an indication that you need to be a Mishkan and bring holiness even to places which otherwise seem devoid of spirituality.

One should not be discouraged when one wanders through a desert, but rather should take it as an affirmation that this is where you belong right now.  Take advantage of the opportunity to construct a Mishkan of mitzvot and good deeds – even if you are in the middle of a desert.