Letter and Spirit

For the week ending 5 February 2022 / 4 Adar Alef 5782

Mishkan and Mikdash

by Rabbi Yosef Hershman
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The two words for “sanctuary” in the Torah are used seemingly interchangeably. We are instructed to build a “mikdash,” but then the structure is referred to as a “mishkan.” Moshe is instructed, they shall make for Me a mikdash and I will dwell among them. (Shemot 25:8)

The construction of this Mishkan is then described in great detail and is followed, in Sefer Vayikra, by the laws of the Temple, and the laws of sanctification of life. At the conclusion of these laws, the Torah restates that G-d will place His dwelling among us. (Vaykira 26:11)

From the placement of these two declarations, and what comes in-between, it is clear that the objective of having G-d dwell among us extends far beyond the Presence of G-d in the Temple. Rather, it refers to His presence in our midst, in our national and private lives. That is our task: to build a mikdash out of our lives. When we construct the mikdash, G-d promises His Presence, protection and blessing in our midst— His dwelling (mishkan) will be among us.

Mikdash” refers not only to the physical structure that is to follow, but also to the spiritual form of our task. We are to consecrate our lives to the fulfillment of Torah, sanctifying our every action and interaction. In return, we are promised mishkan: the Shechina, G- d’s presence, protection and blessing. The two concepts reach their high point in the Tabernacle. It is the place of consecration, the place where we are reminded most acutely to Whom our lives are to be devoted, and it is the place of G-d’s greatest closeness to us. It is the physical place in which the eternal covenant between G-d and His people is given expression, but it can only give expression to what already exists in the hearts of the people. The true location of the mikdash, and in turn, the mishkan, is “b’tochechem” — within us. If we live in faithful observance and in sanctity, we will merit the Shechina in our midst.

  • Sources: Commentary, Shemot 25:3-8

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