This week we begin a series of parshiyos detailing the design and construction of the Mishkan. It’s interesting that the Torah goes into such intricate detail on the Mishkan. After all, it’s not a mitzvah for generations, this was a one-time deal. Why do we need to know exactly what materials were used? Why do we need to know the exact design of each utensil? For the most part, we can’t figure out exactly what they looked like anyway. Why do we need to know exactly how everything fit together? We would never see it anyway. Its one thing for those at the time to know all these things, but for us nowadays, why would the Torah include all this?
It must be that these details are important. In the past two parshiyos, we heard the Aseres Hadibros, i.e. we met Hashem and committed ourselves to becoming His Chosen Nation; and last week we learned the structure of law vital to a developing society. If we accept that the details of the Mishkan are important for us to know, it follows that they are also important for the development of a nation. What they are exactly is for us to discover. This week’s Dvar Torah focuses on one such idea.
Surrounding the actual Mishkan structure was a walled-in courtyard. The columns for this wall were made of, “עֲצֵ֥י שִׁטִּ֖ים עֹֽמְדִֽים” “Acacia wood, upright” (Shemos 26:15). Rashi quotes a midrash that tells an interesting story behind these trees. Yaakov Avinu planted these trees when he came down to Mitzrayim for the sole purpose that Bnei Yisrael should take them for the Mishkan when they left. The midrash continues with an even earlier origin story. Avraham Avinu had planted them near his home in Be’er Sheva. Before Yaakov went down to Mitzrayim, he visited those trees and took them with him and replanted them there, in order that they should be used for the Mishkan.
The obvious question on this story is “why”? Why did Yaakov need these specific trees from Avraham? Why couldn’t the Bnei Yisrael plant trees on their own? Why couldn’t they take trees that were grown by the Egyptians?
Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky gives two answers to these questions. The first is that Yaakov planted the trees for psychological affect. Hashem promised Yaakov that He would bring his children out of Mitzrayim, and Yaakov believed that promise would be fulfilled. And while he told his children about it, he wanted to give them a constant sign that they should be prepared to leave Egypt when the time came. The sign was these trees. If Bnei Yisrael ever doubted or forgot about how they would leave Mitzrayim, they could look at these trees and remember the directive of Yaakov; that these trees had a special purpose for Bnei Yisrael after they left Mitzrayim, that they would become the chosen nation and would have a need for these trees.
The second answer goes into the fabric of what the Mishkan was all about. The first answer we gave didn’t answer the question why Yaakov had to take Avraham’s trees to Mitzrayim. Why couldn’t he plant his own when he got down there?
The Mishkan was meant to be the place where Hashem could rest His presence on this Earth. As such, it was only proper that its materials be from the most precious materials; but not just in quality and rarity, also in intention. Avraham planted those trees by his inn in Be’er Sheva; from the moment they were planted, they were intended to be a source of kindness to all. Their origin was one in which they were used exclusively to follow the ways of Hashem. Therefore, Yaakov felt he needed those trees. The only wood fit for the Mishkan was wood planted with the express purpose of increasing the glory of Hashem in this world, and their final mission would be to house that glory.
This is just one example of the tremendous depth behind the construction of the Mishkan. As we go through the next few parshiyos and continue with the details of the design and construction, I would encourage you all to see for yourselves if you can uncover some of the lessons and ideas behind this awesome building.
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