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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Shmini

Parashat Shmini

Bringing Down the Divine Presence

Rabbi Yossef Carmel22 Adar II 5765
3139
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In our parasha we reach the climax of the process that began with the commandment, "You shall make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them" (Shemot 25:8). The latter part of Sefer Shemot deal with the commandment to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and its utensils and its fulfillment. The first two parshiyot of Sefer Vayikra lay out the fundamentals of the sacrifices that are the basis of the service in the Mishkan. We are now up to the eighth day of the inauguration of the Mishkan, when Aharon embarked upon his calling to offer sacrifices. This is in contrast to the first seven days, when Moshe performed the service himself. The Torah describes how Aharon "came down from doing the sin-offering, the burnt-offering, and the peace-offering" (Vayikra 9:22).

However, at this point, we are in for a surprise, for the next pasuk says: "Moshe and Aharon came to the Tent of Meeting and went out and blessed the nation, and the glory of Hashem appeared before the entire nation." Why did Moshe have to intervene at this point, when the service had already been given over to Aharon? The midrash (Sifra, Shemini 1) explains what transpired. It was expected that after the sacrifices, the Divine Presence would appear; yet It failed to. Aharon sensed that this was because Hashem was angry with him and complained to Moshe for putting him in the situation where he would be publicly shamed. Moshe went in with Aharon and prayed that the Divine Presence would descend, and It did. What did Moshe provide that Aharon was not able to?

Rav Tzadok of Lublin, in Pri Tzadik on our parasha, cites the Zohar, saying that Moshe had a special relationship with "the King" and was able to lower the Divine Presence to the earth. In contrast, Aharon had a special relationship with the matrunita (roughly, the princess) and was able to bring the sanctity into the hearts of the Jewish people. Now we need to explain the explanation.

We look forward to and pray for the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash. However, if we just concentrate on the building or the sacrifices, we are missing the main point. The restoration of the service in the Beit Hamikdash is the means to reach a double goal of bringing down the Divine Presence to the "lower world" and rooting its sanctity in Bnei Yisrael’s heart. That was the original, stated goal of making a Sanctuary so that "I can dwell in their midst." Moshe, who had spent 40 days in the heaven, was the one who knew how to accomplish the first part of the goal, bringing the Presence down. Aharon, who had the gift of being able to relate to every person, was the one who could incorporate the sanctity into the people’s hearts.

Let us pray for the fulfillment, not only of "return the service to the sanctum of Your house" but also, "sanctify us with your mitzvot and place our portion in Your Torah and purify our hearts that we shall serve you honestly."

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