Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Terumah
To dedicate this lesson

The purpose of bilding the Mishkan and the people whom are capable to build it


Rabbi Berel Wein

28 Shvat 5768
The Mishkan which the Jews built in the desert as well as the Temple of Solomon and the Second Temple in Jerusalem were not intended as being ends in themselves but rather to be the facilitators, the means, to the ultimate end itself - closeness to Hashem and holiness. We see throughout the words of the later prophets of Israel a constant warning theme not to confuse the means - the Temple - with the end goal of sanctity and a holy life. Sanctity and holiness are achieved from inside one’s being, from the depth of one’s soul and personality, and not necessarily from outside forces, even the Holy Temple or Mishkan. The danger always present in building any structure for a religious and spiritual purpose is that it - the building itself - takes over to such an extent that the religion and spirituality which brought it about fades into a secondary role. The other danger that the parsha raises is the raising of funds - gold, silver, bronze, textiles, etc. - and how the necessity for these items can corrupt the holiness of the structure of holiness that is intended for such an exalted purpose. Perhaps in no other area like fundraising for religious causes can the trap of the end justifies the means close so tightly and solidly. Thus the parsha of Terumah and the entire recounting of the story of the Mishkan therefore poses the continuing challenge of translating the purely physical into the spiritual, the temporary into the eternal, and to do so in accordance with the axiom that righteousness is pursued only by righteous means.

The Mishkan was built by very young architects. Midrash teaches us that Bezalel himself was barely bar-mitzva when he undertook this enormously task. Perhaps the Torah wants us to realize that only the young, those still pure and uncontaminated, are worthy of such a task. They still have ideals that have not been allowed to deteriorate in the face of life’s practicalities and difficulties. Thus their approach to building a Mishkan will of necessity be less tainted and conflicted than that of the older, wiser but more battered adults. One of the most refreshing things that I have experienced in my decades of teaching young men Talmud is their freshness and lack of cynicism and conflicts of interest. Teaching adults, no matter how fine and pious they are, nevertheless always involves an entirely different approach. It is a measure of self analysis that determines how one views the building of a Mishkan - a personal Mishkan and a national one. Those who are able to recognize their personal faults and intend to improve them, who can recognize their true motives and conflicts will undoubtedly be able to such a Mishkan that God Himself, so to speak, will dwell amongst them. But without such a self analytic effort any Mishkan that will be built will be temporary and faulty. The effort and materials that have to be taken to build a Mishkan have to be as honest and pure as possible - they have to be taken for "Me" - for God Himself.
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