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They shall make a mikdash for Me, so that I may dwell among them. Like everything that I show you, the form of the mishkan and the form of all its vessels and so shall you do. (Shemos 25:8,9)
In this week’s parsha we learn about the mishkan and its various utensils. The main structure of the mishkan was divided into two parts, the “Holy” and the “Holy of Holies.” Among the various utensils were the menorah and the shulchan. Both stood in the “Holy” before the curtain that divided between the “Holy” and the “Holy of Holies.” The menorah stood in the south and the shulchan in the north.
The Gemara (Menachos 98:) presents a dispute between Rebbi and Rebbi Elazar as to exactly how the menorah and shulchan stood. Rebbi opines that both stood east to west. The length of the menorah and shulchan stood along the length of the mishkan. Rebbi Elazar disagrees and posits that both stood from north to south. Their length was along the width of the mishkan.
In the sefer Beis Yishai (Derashos Vol. 1) Rav Shlomo Fisher poses the following query. How do we understand the relationship between the “Holy” and the “Holy of Holies?” Do we view the “Holy” as a gateway to the “Holy of Holies” or are the “Holy” and the “Holy of Holies” two separate entities that just happen to be next to each other.
Rav Fisher suggests that this is the dispute between Rebbi and Rebbi Elazar. When decorating a room one can place furnishings in one of two ways, either along the width of the room or along its length. It is logical the when a room serves as an anteroom or gateway to another room its furniture is positioned along the length of the room. This gives the impression that this room leads into the next. However, when decorating a room that does not lead into another room it is logical to put the furniture along the width of the room. This gives the impression that the room ends here.
According to Rebbi the “Holy” served as a gateway to and from the “Holy of Holies.” Therefore, the menorah and shulchan were positioned along the length of the mishkan. This gave the impression that the “Holy” served as a gateway to and from the “Holy of Holies.” Rebbi Elazar is of the opinion that the “Holy” was not related to the “Holy of Holies.” Therefore, the menorah and shulchan stood along the width of the room. This gave the impression that the “Holy” had no relation to the “Holy of Holies.” It was separate and independent.
What is the homiletic significance of these two opinions?
It is noteworthy that the Torah calls this structure by two names. It is called both a “mishkan” (Shemos 25:9) and a “mikdash” (Shemos 25:8). The commentators explain that each name represents a different function. When referring to Hashem presence it was called a mishkan. The word mishkan means a dwelling place. The mishkan was the place where Hashem rested His Divine Presence in this world. From there it emanated to the rest of the world.
On the other hand the name mikdash defines the perspective of the Jewish people. This word is translated as a “Sanctuary.” This word connotes that this structure was to be used by the Jewish people as a place to become close to Hashem.
Certainly all agree that the combined structure of the “Holy” and the “Holy of Holies” served both functions. However, let us suggest that Rebbi and Rebbi Elazar disagree as to what is its primary function.
According to Rebbi Elazar the primary function of this structure was the mikdash element. It was a place where the Jewish people served Hashem. With this perspective in mind, the furthest place man can go is the “Holy.” With the exception of Yom Kippur the “Holy of Holies” was off limits punished by pain of death by heaven. It was not a place were man was permitted to enter. The “Holy” was not a gateway to the “Holy of Holies.” Thus, according to Rebbi Elazar the menorah and the shulchan stood with their length along the width of the mikdash to give this impression that one may not go beyond the “Holy.”
According to Rebbi the primary function was the mishkan element. It was the place where Hashem rested His Divine Presence. From there the Divine Presence spread to the rest of the world. With this perspective, the “Holy” was viewed as gateway out of “Holy of Holies.” The Divine Presence entered the “Holy of Holies” and from there flowed through the “Holy” to the entire world. Thus, the menorah and the shulchan stood along the length of the mishkan to make it clear that the “Holy” was a gateway from the “Holy of Holies” for the Divine Presence.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5763/2003