This week’s parshah, Parshas Pekudei, brings Sefer Shemos and the story of the Mishkan to a close. The Mishkan was used throughout Bnei Yisrael’s journey to Eretz Yisrael. Once they arrived in Eretz Yisrael, the Mishkan was used for another several hundred years before the Beis Hamikdash was built in the times of Shlomo HaMelech. Even though it lasted nearly as long as both Batei Mikdash and served the spiritual needs of the nation for centuries, its’ legacy is overshadowed by the two Batei Mikdash. What exactly is the legacy of the Mishkan?
The parshah begins, “אלה פקודי המשכן משכן העדת אשר פקד על פי משה עבדת הלוים ביד איתמר בן אהרן הכהן . ובצלאל בן אורי בן חור למטה יהודה עשה את כל אשר צוה יהוה את משה “ “These are the numbers of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the Testimony, which were counted at Moshe’s command; the work of the Levites, under the direction of Itamar, the son of Aharon the Kohen. Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Yehuda, had made all that Hashem commanded Moshe.” (Shemos 38:21-22) The Seforno explains that these pesukim are listing a number of properties that the Mishkan possessed which the Beis Hamikdash did not.
The pasuk begins by calling the Mishkan, “the Mishkan of the Testimony”. This refers to the original set of Luchos that Moshe broke that were stored in the Ark while in the Mishkan. These Luchos were not present in the second Beis Hamikdash. The pesukim continue that the construction of the Mishkan was under the leadership of Moshe, the Levi’im acted as caretakers under the leadership of Aharon’s son, Itamar, and Betzalel was in charge of the construction. All facets of the Mishkan, its design, construction, and caretakers were all under the leadership of these great people, and therefore, the Shechinah was present in every move made by it.
Such standards were not always true in the Beis Hamikdash. Neither the first nor second Beis Hamikdash was built and maintained entirely by Jews. The first Beis Hamikdash used workers from Tzur in its construction and the construction of the Second Beis Hamikdash was undertaken almost entirely by non-Jews. Additionally, in the Second Beis Hamikdash, there were no Levi’im (See Ezra 8:15). The holy connection through leadership was missing in all aspects.
For these reasons, both Batei Mikdash were lacking the influence of the Shechinah (in a certain sense) and were able to fall into the hands of non-Jews and be destroyed. However, the Mishkan did possess all these properties, and therefore, could never be destroyed. Because of these amazing properties, which even the Beis Hamikdash could not claim, the Mishkan never fell into enemy hands. It was merely “retired” when the Beis Hamikdash was built and it was no longer needed.
This is not to say that the Mishkan was a more important structure than the Beis Hamikdash was. The Beis Hamikdash was greater than it in many ways. It was a more beautiful structure, containing more utensils and overall beauty, items which made it a higher honor to Hashem. It was bigger and therefore contained more opportunities for people to perform acts of service to Hashem. And most importantly, it was permanent; a fact which made it so much more valuable than the Mishkan. So the point here is not to say what was better or holier, the point is to realize that beauty and spirituality can come in many shapes and sizes. We may not even realize that something that seems insignificant in comparison, may possess the most special piece of all.
Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Parshas Pekudei
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