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He erected the Courtyard all around the Tabernacle and the Alta0r, and he emplaced the curtain of the gate of the Courtyard. And Moshe completed the work. (Shemos 40:33)
The commentators note that throughout the erection of the mishkan the Torah consistently concludes each section with the words “as Hashem had commanded Moshe.” Indeed this phrase is repeated eighteen times in this parsha. However, here in connection with the courtyard this phrase is mysteriously omitted. The posuk simply concludes “and Moshe completed the work.” Why is the courtyard different than the other parts of the mishkan?
The commentators answer that a courtyard and gate are symbolic of fear of heaven. If one has a beautiful home one needs a gate to guard it. Likewise one may have accumulated much Torah and mitzvos but without fear of heaven he is at risk of losing it all. With regard to fear of heaven the posuk says “What does Hashem request of you but to fear Him.” Hashem does not command fear, he requests it. The word “command” has the connotation that one must fulfill the instruction even if one does not understand why. However, this is counterproductive with regard to fear. Fear must be developed. In connection to fear the Torah uses the word “request.” This has a gentler connotation. It is precisely because the courtyard is symbolic of fear of heaven that the posuk could not say “as Hashem commanded Moshe.” Instead, the posuk concludes with just “and Moshe completed the work.”
Let us suggest another answer.
The commentators note that the mishkan was a microcosm of the world. Every part of the mishkan corresponded to a specific act of creation. For example, the laver corresponds to the seas and rivers. The menorah corresponds to the sun, moon and stars. The altar corresponds to the earth, etc… (See Limudei Nissan by Rav Nissan Alpert tz”l, parshas Pekudei for an elaboration of this idea.)
The posuk says that Hashem rested on the seventh day. (Bereishis 2:2) Rashi there in his second interpretation explains that Shabbos was not just a cessation of work. Hashem created the Shabbos. Similar to the other elements of creation, Shabbos is also a creation of Hashem. The posuk therefore says that Hashem finished his creation on the seventh day itself, not the sixth day.
If we assume that everything in the mishkan corresponds to an act of creation, we may suggest that the courtyard corresponded to the creation of Shabbos. Indeed, the Torah uses the exact same word in reference to both Shabbos and the mishkan. With regard to the courtyard the posuk says “Moshe completed all his work.” Likewise with regard to Shabbos the posuk says that “Hashem completed his work.”
We may now answer our question as to why the posuk here does not conclude with the phrase “as Hashem commanded Moshe.” With regard to all acts of creation the posuk states the command of Hashem, “And Hashem said …” However, with regard to Shabbos the posuk simply says “and Hashem completed His work.”
Now that we have suggested that the courtyard corresponds to Shabbos we may take a new look at their relationship.
The Torah tells us that the courtyard had exactly sixty pillars. What are these pillars symbolic of? It is noteworthy that there are approximately 60 days in year that we treat with the sanctity of Shabbos. This calculation takes into consideration the fact that there are fifty-three parshious in the Torah. During a leap year, one parsha is read each week. Furthermore, there are seven Biblical holidays that share the basic laws of Shabbos and are called Shabbos by the Torah. This gives us a total of sixty days that have the sanctity of Shabbos. It should be noted that Ve-zos Habracha is read on Shmini Atzertz and thus two of the aforementioned shabbosim coincide, however we may make up the day by noting that Rosh Hashanah is celebrated as two days even in Eretz Yisroel. or that Yom Kippur is treated as a double Shabbos.)
The sixty pillars of the courtyard are all connected through the curtains. This teaches us that the full effect of Shabbos can only be felt and appreciated by a continuous observance of Shabbos throughout the Jewish year.
Each pillar was comprised of three parts; a base, the main segment of the pillar and a hook on top. These three parts correspond to the three meals of Shabbos.
Shabbos is describes in the Torah as a day that serves as a sign between Hashem and the Jewish people to the exclusion of the gentiles. Indeed, the Gemara teaches us that a non-Jew who rests on Shabbos is subject to death. The courtyard likewise creates an area of privacy were the Jewish people may serve Hashem away from the view of others.
The first posuk in the Torah says that Hashem created the heavens and the earth. (Bereishis 1:1) The Torah then proceeds to describe the details of heaven and earth. Every element of creation fits into the category of either heaven or earth. Heaven is symbolic of the spiritual and earth is symbolic of the mundane. In the courtyard there were two main items, the altar and the mishkan. The altar is symbolic of the mundane. This may be seen from the fact that the Torah commands that it be made from earth. Furthermore, upon the altar one would offer animal sacrifices. This is symbolic of conquering and subduing one’s mundane animalistic drives. On the other hand, the mishkan corresponds to the spiritual. It was in the mishkan where the Divine Presence resided.
The courtyard enclosed the altar and the mishkan. The posuk emphasizes this point by stating “He erected the courtyard all around the mishkan and the altar.” Shabbos too represents the unification of the mundane and the spiritual. Just as the courtyard enclosed the altar and the mishkan, the symbols of mundane and holiness, likewise Shabbos synthesizes the mundane and the spiritual. The sanctity of Shabbos gives us the ability to elevate the mundane in service of Hashem.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5763/2003