Judaism: Divrei Azriel: A Bittersweet Day
The completion and inauguration of the Mishkan was not simply the beginning of a new era in Jewish history: it was also the culmination of the process of Creation. The Midrash (Tanchuma Pekudei, Rabbah Nasso) draws several parallels between the creation of the world and the erection of the Mishkan.
The tapestry covering the Mishkan is akin to the skies, the ‘parochet’ to the division between the lower and upper waters. The ‘kiyor’ symbolizes the gathering of the waters; the menorah is reminiscent of the great luminaries. The ‘keruvim’ allude to the creation of the birds, and the ‘Kohanim’ who serve in the Mishkan represent humankind who were created to serve Hashem in the world.
When the world was complete, Hashem blessed it. Similarly, Moshe bestowed his blessing upon the Jewish people when the Mishkan was completed. As the Gemara (Megilla 10b) points out, “It was as joyous a day before Hashem as the one on which the heavens and the earth were created.”
And yet, there is a bitter undertone: “vayehi bayom hashemini.” Rabbi Levi, and some say Rabbi Yonatan, teaches: “Whenever the Torah uses the expression ‘vayehi,’ it is a sign of distress.” The Gemara (Megilla ibid.) explains that this is due to the fact that Aharon’s two sons died on this very day. However, from the context, it seems that the “vayehi” precedes this tragic event, as if there was something in the atmosphere on that special day that hovered over the celebration and dimmed its glory.
Hashem created the world with the intention that it should be the place where humankind serve Him. Most nations rejected this responsibility, and thus the Jewish people were chosen to carry out the task that was initially reserved for all peoples. And the Mishkan was chosen to serve as the primary place of this worship. The glory of the Mishkan is its tragedy, because its very nature as a chosen place expresses the shortcomings of humankind to allow Hashem to fill the entire Universe. Instead of “melo kol haaretz kevodo,” the entire Earth is filled with His Glory, we read at the end of the parsha that “kevod Hashem maleh et hamishkan," His glory fills the Tabernacle.
The Gemara (Zevachim 116a) says that Hashem’s voice filled the entire Universe during the Giving of the Torah. The very same voice would emanate from the ‘Aron hakodesh,’ Holy Ark, but would terminate at the walls as if they were soundproof (Rashi Bemidbar 7:89). Hashem’s voice seeks to break the barrier, but our unworthy actions have the ability to restrain it, as the verse (Shmuel1 3:1) says, בימים ההם אין חזון נפרץ - “in those days the visions could not break through.”
The limited nature of the sanctity is expressed by the death of the two sons of Aharon (see also Shemot 19:22-24). Aharon in the Mishkan was parallel to Adam in the world. Just as Adam lost his son, Aharon lost his sons. This signifies the imperfection of the world that we currently live in.
But there is a third person who buried his sons: Judah, Yehuda. After the death of his sons, he had twins, one of whom pushed forward, and they named him Peretz, פרץ, which comes from the root "to burst forth". The ultimate redemption will come at the hands of a descendent of פרץ. This will bring about a world where there are no more restrictions on the spreading of the word of Hashem (חזון נפרץ), and His ‘kavod,’ Glory, will not be limited to the Mishkan (Yeshayahu 54:2-3):
“Broaden the place of your tent and let the curtains of your dwellings (משכנותיך) stretch out, stint not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will burst out (תפרצי) to the right and to the left…”