Pearls of Rashi – Vayakhel-Pekudei

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel-Pekudei, we read about how Moshe Rabbeinu finally completed setting up the Tabernacle – Mishkan. It had been inaugurated for seven days. Now it was ready to serve its role as Hashem’s dwelling place in this world. It was the central location from which G-dliness would be revealed to the physical world.

There were many jobs which Moshe Rabbeinu performed in order to prepare the Tabernacle. Among them was that (Shemos 40:20) “he took and placed the testimony into the ark (called the Aron in Hebrew), put the poles upon the ark, and placed its cover upon it from above.” Rashi explains that the word “testimony” refers to the two tablets, meaning Torah.

The Midrash tells us (Shemos Rabbah Chapter 83, 2) that “at the time that G-d commanded Moshe to build the Mishkan, he related the news to Betzalel. Betzalel asked Moshe what the Mishkan is. To this Moshe responded that it is the place in this world where Hashem would cause His presence, the Shechinah to rest. Furthermore, from there He will teach Torah. Betzalel asked Moshe where specifically the Torah would rest. To this Moshe responded that it would rest in the ark.”

This Midrash seems to pose a difficulty based on a famous teaching of the Ramban. The Ramban writes that the purpose of the Tabernacle is to serve as the place where the Shechinah rests. Where specifically within the Mishkan does it rest? Hashem’s presence rested primarily in the ark. How can we reconcile the Midrash which says that the Aron served as the resting place of Torah, with the Ramban who says that it was the resting place of the Shechinah?

Perhaps we can explain this as follows. Both the Midrash and Rashi may be alluding to the fact that Torah is the greatest way to cause the Shechinah to rest among the Jews.

The two primary ways in which Jews connect with G-d is through Torah and Mitzvos. Through fulfilling a Mitzvah one carries out Hashem’s Will, which is obviously a great thing. However, the person does not become united with the Mitzvah. One who puts on Tefillin is fulfilling G-d’s Will. However, once he removes the Tefillin from his head and his arm, he is no longer connected to the Mitzvah.

Torah, however, is a completely different thing. It is Hashem’s Will and Wisdom. Being a complete unity, He, His Wisdom and His Will are one. When one learns Torah and grasps it, the person is actually grasping Hashem Himself. Because the person remembers and internalizes what he learns, he is united with G-d even after he puts the Torah book back on the shelf. It is an everlasting bond.

Each facet of the entire Mishkan provided a dwelling place for Hashem. However, no other place within the Tabernacle could compare to the Aron, which contained the two tablets, which are the idea of Torah study.

Wishing one and all a wonderful Shabbos and a happy and kosher Pesach!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

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