The Faculty of Jewish Studies
The Office of the Campus Rabbi
No. 123. Parashat Pekudei 1996, 5756
"And Moses Blessed Them" - The Holy Presence in the
Tabernacle and Among the People.
Dr. Meir Gruzman
Department of Talmud
Upon the completion of the building of the Tabernacle (Mishkan) , when Moses saw that it had indeed been done "as the Lord had commanded", he blessed all those who had done the work: "and Moses blessed them" (Exodus 39:43). Rashi, in accord with a Midrashic source , provides the wording of the blessing Moses recited: "May it be (God's) will that His Holy Presence (Shechinah) rest upon the work of your hands and let the delightfulness of the Lord our God be upon us" (see Psalms 90:17). This blessing contains two elements: first - that God's presence settle upon the work that was done, on all their efforts, that is, on the Mishkan; and subsequently - "that the delightfulness of the Lord ... be upon us" (according to Midrash Sifra at the beginning of Parashat Shmini, par. 15, this verse from Psalms "and let the delightfulness ..." was the reply of the people).
Rashi's commentary to Psalms 90:17 reveals that the words "the delightfulness of the Lord" also refer to the Shechinah, God's presence. Both parts of the blessing then refer to the resting of the Shechinah on the Mishkan and "on us". Is there a direct connection between the two parts of the blessing? Why we should expect that once the Shechinah rests upon the Mishkan it would also rest upon us ?
At the beginning of Parashat Terumah, God said to Moses: "And let them make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell among them". (Ex. 25:8). The Torah does not say "And I will dwell in it" - in the Mishkan, but rather "among them" - among the People of Israel. The existence of the Mishkan, its ritual, and its appropriate customs causes the Shechinah to settle among the People of Israel.
Our Sages saw this connection and pointed it out at various opportunities. In one place they explained the term "Tabernacle of testimony" (Mishkan Ha-Edut, Ex.38:21) to mean: "the Mishkan testifies that the Shechinah was within Israel" (Tanhuma, Pekudei 8). Elsewhere, dealing with the importance of the work of constructing the Mishkan, and with those who carried it out the Rabbi's said: "The Almighty did not make His Presence rest upon Israel until they performed the work, for it is written "and let them make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell among them". (Avot D'rabbi Natan - version a , 11). In still another place they said: "It was for this they came out from Egypt, that they should build the Mishkan and the Shechinah come to rest among them" (Sifra, Bechukotai, 26).
When they did built the Mishkan, the Shechinah dwelled amongst them, as expressed in the words of our Sages: "From when did the Shechinah come to rest on the earth? From the day on which the Mishkan was completed" (Bamidbar Rabbah, 13:4). The connection between the Presence of God in the Mishkan and among the Children of Israelis established. How can this connection be explained ?
It would appear that the service in the Mishkan, when carried out properly, is an expression of the subservience of the People of Israel to God and of their connection to Him. It symbolizes their acceptance of His dominion and rule over them. The worship of God in the Mishkan and its central role in both their spiritual lives and actual activity is proof of their devotion to G-d and the acceptance of His Kingship. When, in fact, this is the case and the People behave in accordance with the ideals which derive from the Mishkan, it follows as a matter of course that the Shechinah will be among them.
We find support for this ezplanation in the words of God to Solomon when he built the Temple: "Concerning this house which you are building, if you follow My statutes and carry out My judgements and keep all My commandments to live according them, then will I carry out My promise to you which I spoke to your father, David. And I will dwell among the Children of Israel and I will not forsake My people, Israel" (1 Kings 6:11-13). The Temple is the reason that the Shechinah dwells amongst Israel, conditional, upon the people observingthe demands made upon them.
Further, the connection berween God's indwelling in the Mishkan and among Israel helps to clarify two adjoining sentences in Parashat Tezaveh. After God instructs Moses in the details of the sacrificial service on the altar, the dedication of the Tent of Assembly, and the inculcation of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood, He adds one passage related to our discussion: "And I will dwell among the Children of Israel and I will be their God" (Ex. 29:45). These two sentences are not limited to their face value, namely the announcement of the settling of the Shechinah among the People and the rule of God over them. It is our opinion that this passage carries two further messages: The first is that with the dedication of the Mishkan and the priesthood, the Shechinah will come to rest among the people and a connection will be created between the Shechinah in the Mishkan and among the people; and the second, that the condition for the continuing presence of the Shechinah and its permanence is "and I will be their God". If they accept My kingship upon them and do My will, the Shechinah will rest among them, and if not, the Shechinah will not settle either among the people or in the Temple. Obviously, a Temple without Shechinah has no raison d'etre, and is relegated to destruction.
This, too, God told Solomon when he built the Temple: "If you turn away from following Me, you or your children, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have placed before you, and if you go and serve other gods and bow down to them, then I will cut Israel off from this land which I have given to them and this House which I dedicated to My name I will cast out from before Me" (1 Kings 9:6-7).
This is exactly the point: There is a profound connection and mutual
relationship between the People of Israel and their Temple. As one is sanctified
so is the other, when one collapses so will the other. The blessing of
Moses upon completion of the Tabernacle was two-fold: that the Shechinah
will come to rest in the Mishkan, and simultaneously among the people
who build it and serve in it faithfully.
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