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Wednesday
Mar022016

A VIRTUAL REALITY BAIS HAMIKDASH

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

In the earlier parsha of Truma, G-d gave Moshe instructions concerning the contributions for and the construction of the Mishkan. In this week’s parsha, Moshe gathered the Jewish people and gave them those instructions. But before doing so he instructed them concerning the Shabbos:

“These are the things that G-d commanded, to do them: On six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you…”

Several questions arise:

First, this parsha is unique in that it is the only one in which it is said that “Moshe assembled the entire assembly of the children of Israel.” Why in this parsha particularly?

Second, why was it necessary for Moshe to gather all of the people? He could have easily spoken to the elders and they would have passed along the instructions concerning construction of the Mishkan to the people.

Third, the Torah uses the words, “These are the things that G-d commanded, to do them,” which signals that the commandment which follows is one of action. The problem here is that it concerns resting on the Shabbos, which is passive, not active.

The Midrash (Yalkut) in commenting on the first verse seems to have anticipated these questions and offers an insight that provides an answer to them:

The Midrash states,

“Moshe gathered the people on Shabbos specifically for the purpose of engaging in Torah study, and he instituted this practice for all of Israel, for each and every Shabbos.”

In other words, Moshe’s purpose in gathering them here is to instruct them about the importance of observing Shabbos not just by desisting from work but also proactively, by gathering the Jews for the purpose of Torah study, specifically on Shabbos.

The question still remains, why was this message about communal Torah study on Shabbos mentioned specifically here in our parsha, the subject of which is primarily the Mishkan. The topic of Shabbos arises only tangentially here.  [Rashi explains that the Torah’s juxtaposition of Shabbos and the building of the Mishkan was intended to teach the people that one must not desecrate the Shabbos, even for construction of the Mishkan.]

WHY DOESN’T ERECTING THE MISHKAN OVERRIDE THE SHABBOS?

To answer this question we must understand why building G-d’s sanctuary does not override the Shabbos. After all, the Mishkan was where G-d chose to rest His presence. Moreover, His willingness to dwell amongst the Jewish people through the Mishkan demonstrated that He had forgiven them for the sin of the Golden Calf. Why then should its construction not override the Shabbos?

Furthermore, why is it that the people were permitted, nay commanded, to offer sacrifices in the Mishkan and Bais HaMikdash, on Shabbos, which involved the seeming transgression of several of the prohibitions of Shabbos, such as slaughtering the animal and burning it on the Altar’s fire? Why is it that the sacrifices could override the Shabbos, but the construction of the Mishkan, which facilitated the sacrifices, could not?

INAUGURATION OF INTEGRITY

One answer is that there is a difference between creating and inaugurating a holy institution and what we may do in it once it is established. To insure the spiritual integrity of the Sanctuary there could not be even an apparent compromise of Jewish law while it is being built. We cannot initiate something G-dly with compromised standards.

Once the structure was complete with all of its spiritual components, it could “tolerate” and even “incorporate” the sacrifices on Shabbos. Then, within the confines of the Sanctuary only, the sacrifices were able to become part of its Shabbos observance.

[We must make it abundantly clear, however, that the above is not a license for us to decide what activities we may do on Shabbos based on what we think will enhance the Shabbos experience. That decision has to be made by G-d, as He expresses His will in the Torah. And the Torah clearly permits and even requires sacrifices to be offered on Shabbos; but only certain obligatory sacrifices and only in the Sanctuary, exclusively.]

POSITIVE VERSUS NEGATIVE COMMANDMENTS

One might suggest yet another explanation to distinguish between the creation of the Mishkan and the offering of sacrifices after its completion.

Whenever there are conflicting Mitzvos, we must make a determination which one takes precedence over the other.

Generally the rule is that when a positive Mitzvah conflicts with a negative Mitzvah, the positive overrides the negative. The classic example of this is a tallis made of linen. As far as Biblical status is concerned, we are permitted to insert woolen tzitzis in it in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of wearing a tallis with tzitzis even though the Torah proscribes shatnez, a garment with a mixture of wool and linen.  The positive Mitzvah of wearing tzitzis overrides the negative commandment of not wearing wool and linen.

The rationale for this is provided by the Alter Rebbe (in his classic work the Tanya; Igeres HaT’shuva, chapter one), as elucidated by the Rebbe:

If we were to choose to refrain from doing the positive Mitzvah because of the possible transgression, we would be left without the light generated by the Mitzvah.  Failure to do a Mitzvah, even due to extenuating circumstances, will not generate G-dly energy. Our world would be diminished by that lacuna.

On the other hand, if we conclude that the positive Mitzvah takes precedence, there would be no damage caused by the negative transgression because the Torah mandates that we allow the positive to override it. Doing the negative (i.e., wearing wool mixed with linen) in this situation does not contravene G-d’s will; it will not cause damage and the positive Mitzvah will succeed in bringing G-dly light.

Hence, when the two converge, the positive Mitzvah has an advantage over a negative Mitzvah.

Similarly, if we allow Shabbos to override the sacrifices, we would miss the powerful light that these sacrifices generate. When the Torah permits these sacrifices on Shabbos it is not considered a violation of the Shabbos prohibitions since it is done with explicit Divine sanction.

In addition to Shabbos observance by desisting from work, Shabbos also requires positive actions, such as remembering the Shabbos by declaring the holiness of Shabbos in the Kiddush prayer. However, that does not conflict with the sacrifices. There is ample time to do both. Furthermore, Kiddush is recited at night and the sacrifices were offered during the day.  Likewise the obligation to gather on Shabbos to study Torah does not conflict with the sacrifices; there was ample time to offer sacrifices, gather the Jews and study Torah with them. In effect there is no real conflict between sacrifices and the Shabbos observance.

However, the Mitzvah to build the Mishkan was a constant one; they could not rest until it was completed. If the people had to build it on Shabbos there would have been an irreconcilable conflict between building the Mishkan and gathering to study Torah, both of which are positive Mitzvos.

Thus, construction of the Mishkan would have undermined the positive act of communal Torah study. There was no basis to permit one at the expense of the other.

We can now understand why Moshe taught about gathering the community for Torah study on Shabbos before hinting that the construction of the Mishkan does not override the Shabbos. By introducing us to the all-encompassing positive activity of communal Torah study on Shabbos, we can understand why that Mitzvah overrode the construction of the Mishkan. It is because Shabbos has a positive activity that cannot be overridden by the other positive activity, construction of the Mishkan.

We must still understand why studying Torah on Shabbos overrides such an important Mitzvah as building a Sanctuary for G-d? After all they are both positive exercises. Why would one be more important than the other?

THE FOUR CUBITS OF HALACHA

One answer is that Torah study itself creates a Sanctuary. The Talmud states that “from the time the Temple was destroyed, G-d only has the four cubits of Halacha in His world.” This means that Torah study, particularly when done publically, takes the place of the Bais HaMikdash.

During the weekdays most people are busy earning a living. They can therefore only fulfill the mitzvah of Torah study intermittently (a chapter in the morning and a chapter in the evening). We cannot therefore rely on Torah study to serve in the place of the Bais HaMikdash on weekdays. But Shabbos is different. By having communal Torah study it can take the place of the Bais HaMikdash. We may therefore not override the Shabbos to build the Mishkan because we would miss the positive parallel energy of Torah study.

The teaching about public sessions of Torah learning on Shabbos is reinforced this year in particular. This year is known as the year of Hakhel, the year of gathering. In the days of the Temple, Jews would gather there to hear the words of Torah read by the king. Even though we no longer have the Bais HaMikdash, the Rebbe nevertheless encouraged us to find opportunities to gather groups of Jews for the purpose of Torah study.

This message is even more pronounced this week of VaYakhel, in the year of Hakhel, by reading of the construction of the Mishkan.  All forms of assembly will come together imminently with the Final Redemption at which time the prophet declares; “A great assemblage-Kahal shall come here.”

If Torah study takes precedence over the construction of the Bais HaMikdash because it actually takes its place, how much more so when the Torah subjects we study relate to the Bais HaMikdash itself.

There is, however, a way to have our proverbial cake and eat it too. Rashi’s commentary on the Talmud cites a Midrashic tradition that the future Bais HaMikdash will actually descend pre-fabricated from heaven. And that, Rashi says, can even happen on Shabbos or a Jewish Holiday.

In that scenario we can devote ourselves to communal Torah study and see the building of the Bais HaMikdash as well.

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