Mishkan, Mikdash and Moshe

By Rabbi Ilan Goldman 

Former Rav-Shaliach, Bnei Akiva England
Currently Executive Director, Project Aseret and 
Head of Student Beit Midrash, Lod

אֵלֶּה פְקוּדֵי הַמִּשְׁכָּן מִשְׁכַּן הָעֵדֻת אֲשֶׁר פֻּקַּד עַל פִּי מֹשֶׁה 
‘These are the accountings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the Testimony, which were counted at the word of Moshe’[1].

This opening pasuk of Parashat Pekudei appears to be repetitive, with the first mention of the Mishkan seeming unnecessary. Rashi quotes the Midrash Tanchuma[2], which teaches that the double mention of the word Mishkan is a hint to the Beit HaMikdash, which was taken as collateral (in Hebrew, מַשְׁכּוֹן) in its two destructions for the sins of Israel.
A different Midrash[3] teaches that had Moshe been the one to lead Am Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael, the people would never have sinned. And had they not sinned they would never have been exiled and the Mikdash would still be standing today. But since it was not Moshe who led the people into Israel, they did eventually sin and they were exiled and the first and second Batei Mikdash were destroyed. עַל פִּי מֹשֶׁהtherefore, hints to his sin at the rock, for it was due to words from his mouth that he did not enter and lead Am Yisrael into the Land.

The Sochochov Rebbe, in his book, Shem MiShmuel[4], explains that the word Mikdash is used for what Am Yisrael sanctifies through its own efforts. The word Mishkan is used for where Hashem’s Divine presence dwells: וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם, ‘They shall make for Me a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them’[5]. When it is the people who need to be active and build it is called a Mikdash. When it is Hashem’s doing, of dwelling within us, it is called Mishkan – וְשָׁכַנְתִּי
The Sochochov Rebbe therefore concludes that the Mishkan was never destroyed but was rather concealed. However, the Mikdash, which depended on the people was therefore dependent on their behavior and thus sin could lead to its destruction.

Nevertheless, the Shechinah never fully leaves Am Yisrael. The bricks and stones of the Mikdash can be destroyed but Hashem never stops dwelling within His people, even if He only dwells in a less noticeable fashion. This too is related to Moshe. The Midrash[6] tells of how when everything was ready, everyone tried to erect the Mishkan and yet failed to do so. They then turned to Moshe and asked him to do it, and he single-handedly succeeded. On the one hand the erection of the Mishkan is related to Moshe and on the other hand the pasuk before suggests that Hashem erected it. If Hashem erected the Mishkan then why did a human need to as well, and if so why Moshe?
The Mishkan was Hashem’s dwelling within us, and not dependent on any man. However, it also required some action from below, and this action could only be done by Moshe – firstly because it had to be someone who understood how the Divine can reside in this world, and secondly because through the act of Moshe erecting the Mishkan, the Shechinah would come down and never fully leave.


[1] Shemot 38:21
[2] Midrash Tanchuma, Parashat Pekudei 5
[3] Talmud Bavli, Sotah 13a
[4] Shem Mishmuel, Parashat Pekudei 5674
[5] Shemot 25:8
[6] Lekach Tov, Shemot Chapter 40


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