Judaism: One-Time Experiences

The Ramban's two themes for the book of Exodus.
Published: Saturday, February 22, 2014 11:56 PM


There seems to be a troubling contradiction between two of the Ramban’s central themes regarding the book of Shmot (Exodus).  First, the Ramban (Introduction to Shmot) summarizes Shmot as a book of “Galut and Ge’ula,” (Exile and Redemption) beginning with Bnei Yisrael’s (the Jewish people) enslavement and concluding with Hashem dwelling among them in the Mishkan (tabernacle).  Accordingly, the Mishkan containing Hashem’s constant presence is the pinnacle towards which the entire book advances.

Yet the Ramban (introduction to chapter 25) also ascertains that the Mishkan accomplished another significant role.  It continued the Har Sinai (Mount Sinai) experience.  By housing the Shechina (Divine Presence) that Bnei Yisrael encountered at Har Sinai, it attempting to replicate their ability to connect to it.  This perspective implies that Har Sinai was the zenith, with the Mishkan merely attempting to retain as much of the Har Sinai occurrence as it can.  The Mishkan is a mere afterthought.

Simply stated, which was more important, Har Sinai or the Mishkan?

Perhaps the Ramban believes that the Mishkan is in fact the climax of Shmot, however the Mishkan attempting to retain Har Sinai’s interaction with the Divine does not reduce it to secondary importance. 

On the contrary, sustaining the Shechina encountered at Har Sinai is what gives the Mishkan its importance.  The miracles that took place at Har Sinai, although unparalleled in magnitude (Rambam Yisoday HaTorah 8:1-3), were a one-time experience.  The Mishkan’s role of continuing Har Sinai’s impact gives it a more central role; one that is permanent and enduring.  Apparently, because the Mishkan plays a daily role of housing the Shechina, it is seen as the Ge’ula that the Book of Shmot builds towards.

It is important to realize that tremendous one-time-events have their place, but fall short compared to the impact that consistency has.