By what merit do we earn G-d's help in building the Tabernacle?

World-wide economies are in the doldrums. Yet, we in Israel, see continued growth, new technology and prosperity. We stand tall and strong in face of our enemies, as the newly freed Israelites did in the desert.

Professor Gerald Aranoff,

Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff
INN:GA

We read in Parshat Vayakhel:

“Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community and said to them: These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do: On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death” (Exodus 35:1-2).

We argued in a previous article:  

“In the midrash, the materials for the Tabernacle came From the Garden of Eden, from the 6 days of creation.  God hid them.  God revealed them to Moses and the Israelites for the Tabernacle.  The Tabernacle was built fast: 'In the first month of the second year, on the first of the month, the Tabernacle was set up' (Ex. 40:17).  We can understand building quickly, having materials from the Garden of Eden.”

We cited Midrash Rabbah - Exodus 35:1:

“You shall make the planks for the Tabernacle of acacia wood, upright (Ex. 26: 15). Thus it is written: 'The trees of the Lord drink their fill, the cedars of Lebanon, His own planting' (Psalms 104:16). The Holy One, blessed be He, created many things in His world, but the world being unworthy to have the use of them, He hid them away from the world.”

The midrash also claims an amazing exemption from dire punishment for the sin of building the Tabernacle on the Sabbath:

Mekilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, translated by J. Z. Lauterbach, vol. 3 p. 205:

“Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community and said to them: 'These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do' (Exodus 35:1).  Why is this section set forth? Because it says 'And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them' (Exodus 25:8). I might understand it to mean either on weekdays or on the Sabbath.  And to what am I to apply; 'You shall keep the Sabbath, for it is holy for you. He who profanes it shall be put to death: whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his kin' (Exodus 31:14)? To all other kinds of work except work on the sanctuary.”

I would like to suggest that the reason the midrash says that the sin of building the Tabernacle on the Sabbath would be exempt from the penalties of “put to death” and “cut off from among his kin” is because building the Tabernacle was accomplished with the help of angels.

The law is that one is exempt (פטור אבל אסור) if two do work on Shabbat normally done by one.

Talmud Sabbath 92b:

“It was taught likewise: if one carries out a loaf into the street, he is culpable. If two carry it out: R. Meir declares him culpable; R. Judah rules: If one could not carry it out and both carry it out, they are culpable, otherwise they are not culpable; while R. Simeon exempts [them]. Whence do we know this?-For our Rabbis taught: 'If any person from among the populace unwittingly incurs guilt by doing any of the things which by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and he realizes his guilt' ( Leviticus 4:27). [Only] he who does the whole of it [is culpable], but not he who does part of it.”

The parsha Vayakel deals with the actual construction of the Tabernacle. Surely, angels from Heaven were actively assisting the Israelites.  The Israelites were doing only part of the work. If the Israelites were to do the sin of building the Tabernacle, with angels helping them, on the Sabbath day, they could be exempt, much as two are exempt in carrying a loaf to a public place:

Sabbath Chapter 10 Mishnah 5:

“Mishnah. If one carries out a loaf into the street, he is culpable; if two carry it out, they are not culpable. If one could not carry it out and two carry it out, they are culpable; but R. Simeon exempts [them] [from a sin-offering].”

However, Moses, at the start pf the actual construction of the Tabernacle, warns the people that they must not violate the holiness of the Sabbath even for the sacred purpose of building the Tabernacle. 

True they would be exempt from dire punishment if angels would be assisting them, yet, Moses forbids them.

What merit did the Israelites do to earn them God’s assistance in the construction of the Tabernacle? Surely, the answer is:  the Israelites accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Ruth Rabbah Prologue 1:

“And the Holy One, blessed be He, says to him: Dost thou stand silent and hast no defense to offer for My people? By thy life, I will speak righteousness [Righteousness (Heb-zedakah) often has the sense of grace, action of charity and love] and save My people! With what righteousness? R. Eleazar and R. Johanan:-one says: The righteousness which ye wrought for My word in that ye accepted My Torah, for had ye not accepted My Torah, I should have caused the world to revert to void and desolation. [The world without the Torah, God's moral law, is morally void and desolate.]

"For R. Huna said in the name of R. Aha: “Earth and all its inhabitants dissolve; it is I who keep its pillars firm Selah” (Psalms 75:4) means that the world would long have gone into dissolution had not Israel stood before Mount Sinai. Who then set the world firmly upon its foundation? 'it is I who keep its pillars firm.' By the merit of I  : I have established its pillars forever. The other Rabbi says: By the righteousness which ye wrought unto yourselves in that ye accepted my Torah; for were it not for this, I should have caused thee to disappear from the nations.”

In the midrash, the Israelites accepting the Torah saved the world forever and ever.

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis 66:2

“R. Berekiah commenced thus: 'Turn back, turn back, O maid of Shulem! Turn back, turn back, That we may gaze upon you. Why will you gaze at the Shulammite In the Mahanaim dance?' (The Song of Songs 7:1). Four times is turn back written, in allusion to the four powers [Babylon, Media (= Persia), Greece, and Edom (= Rome)] under whose dominion Israel entered whole and whence they will emerge unscathed.

“'O maid of Shulem!': the nation in blessing whom the priests end with peace every day, as it says, 'The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace' (Numbers 6:26). 'O maid of Shulem!': the nation in whose midst He that is the Peace of all worlds dwells, as it says, 'And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them' (Exodus 25:8). The nation to whom I will give peace, as it says, 'I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone; I will give the land respite from vicious beasts, and no sword shall cross your land' (Leviticus 26:6). The nation to whom I will extend peace, as it is written, 'For thus said the Lord: I will extend to her Prosperity like a stream, The wealth of nations Like a wadi in flood; And you shall drink of it. You shall be carried on shoulders And dandled upon knees.'(Isaiah 66:12). R. Samuel b. Tanhum and R. Hanan b. Berekiah in R. Idi's name explained it: The nation which made peace between Me and My world, since but for them [Their acceptance of the Torah.] I would have destroyed My world.”

We see today the nations about us are in upheaval.  World-wide economies are in the doldrums. Yet, we in Israel, see continued growth, new technology and prosperity. We stand tall and strong in face of our enemies. We must keep our part of the covenant with God, to keep the holy Torah as God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.

The Israelites at Mount Sinai were like sheep with the Lord their shepherd.  G-d led Israel to Egypt.  In Egypt Israel multiplied and became a nation.  God freed Israel from bondage.  When the Israelites accepted the Torah, we then became worthy to build the Tabernacle and to do so exactly as God showed Moses. God then revealed what he had hidden away and God sent His angels, to assist the Israelites to building the Tabernacle. May we see speedily, in our lifetime, a rebuilding of the Temple.





top