Judaism: Stars in the Tabernacle
HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook zts"lFirst Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, revered and famed Torah sage, philosopher, writer, poet, iconic and beloved leader of religious Zionism and the return to Zion (1865-1935).
There is an interesting tradition concerning the beautiful tapestries covering the Tabernacle. The covering was comprised of ten large tapestries with patterns of cherubs woven into them. These colorful tapestries were sewn together in two sets of five, and the two sections were then fastened together with fifty gold fasteners.
We know that the structure of the Tabernacle corresponded to the entire universe. What did these metal fasteners represent?
Like the Stars
The Talmud (Shabbat 99a) tells us that from inside the Tabernacle, the gold fasteners would sparkle against the background of the rich tapestries like stars twinkling in the sky.
This analogy of fasteners to the stars requires further examination. Stars and constellations represent powerful natural forces in the universe, influencing and controlling our world. "Good are the luminaries that our God has created... He granted them strength and power, to be dominant within the world" (from the Sabbath morning prayers).
The Tabernacle fasteners, however, indicate a second function of the stars. The fasteners held the tapestries together. In fact, they emphasized the overall unity of the Tabernacle. By securing the two sets of tapestries together, they would "make the Tabernacle one" (Ex. 36:13).
Holding the Universe Together
In general, the design of the Tabernacle reflected the structure of the universe and its underlying unity. For example, the Tabernacle building consisted of wooden beams with pegs that slid into silver sockets, called adanim. The precise interlocking of the Tabernacle's supporting base of adanim with the upright beams symbolizes the harmonious synchronization of the universe's foundations with the diversified forces and mechanisms that regulate and develop the world.
When we reflect on the beautiful harmony of the different parts of the Tabernacle, we begin to be aware of the fundamental unity of the universe and all of its forces. This insight allows us to recognize that everything is the work of the Creator, Who unites all aspects of creation in His sublime Oneness.
For all of their grandeur and apparent autonomy, the true function of the stars is to act like the Tabernacle fasteners. They hold together the great canopy of the cosmos, in accordance with the Divine plan of creation. Like the sparkling fasteners, the stars "are filled with luster and radiate brightness" on their own accord. Yet their true function is to bind together the forces of the world, making the universe one.