Weekly Torah Reading

Earthly and Heavenly sanctuaries – Past and Future

By Yitzhak Hayut-man. Parashot vaYaqhel (Ex. 35:1 – 38:20) & Pequde (38:21 – 40:38 The two Parashot, vaYaqhel & Pequdei are often read together on the same Shabbat, and indeed their subject is the same – the Mishkan (Tabernacle). All the 122 verses of vaYaqhel (apart from two that discuss the Shabbat) and 92 verses of Pequdei deal exclusively with the work of assembling the Mishkan.

The reader of this Parashah might experience a of ‘deja vu’ feeling, a that (s)he has already seen it all in another place; and indeed, the story of the Mishkan tends to seem very repetitive. But this is not a case of negligent editing; there is a reason for this duplication. As demonstration, at Parashat Naso in the book of Bamidbar (Numbers, 7:12-7:83), which describes the final completion of the Tabernacle (Mishkan משכן) with the inauguration of the Altar, there is a section of 6 sentences which repeats a dozen times. The last five sentences of each section are practically identical. This forms something like a repetitive ritual chanting. But in fact this duplication is a clear statement – that the share of the Twelve Tribes in the Mishkan is completely equal.

What is the reason for the duplication of the matters concerning the Mishkan in the Book of Shemot (Exodus)? The intention is to teach us about the process of assembling the Mishkan, as is already implicit in the first section about the Mishkan in Parashat Terumah “Let them make me a sanctuary (Miqdash מקדש) that I may dwell (shakhan) among them” (25:8). The emphasis is on a process of doing (ssiyah), which is the result of processes of Thinking (Maḥshavah) and Discussion (Dibur). Just as in the first portion of Genesis (Bereshit) there are three distinct stories of beginning (Reshit), that relate to different levels of Being or “worlds” (Ọlam haBeri’ah, Ọlam haYeẓirah & Ọlam haẠssiyah – Worlds of Creation, Formation & Action) that have different characteristics and different time scales. This also holds for the Book of Exodus. The assembly of the Tabernacle is described twice (and certain details thrice), and the important thing here is the exact repetition and great similarity through the passage between levels and fidelity to the client (who is God) in the planning and execution of the work. All changes characterize the passage to degrees of actualization. The following table lists the topics according to the order of their mention.


The Conceptual Mishkan

Speech & Action in Mishkan Construction


Trumah, Teẓaveh, Ki-Tisa

vaYaqhel & Pequde


Building through contributions

Asking for donations


Pattern of the Ark

Appointment of Beẓal’el & Wise Hearted


Pattern of the Table

Making the sheets of the Mishkan Tent


Pattern of the Candelabra

(Beẓal’el) Made the planks


Form of the Mishqan covers

Beẓal’el made the Ark


Pattern of the Mishqan planks

Making the Table


Form of the partition (Parokhet)

Making the Candelabra


Form of the Sacrificial Altar

Making the golden Incense Altar


Form of the Mishqan Court

Making the Sacrificial Altar


Forms of the Priests’ garments

Making the wash basin


Sacrifices sanctifying the Priests

Making of the Court


Pattern of the Incense Altar

Summing/apportioning  the contributions


The 1/2 Sheqel poll tax

Making the door, brass altar and its vessels


Form of the brass washbasin

Making the Efod, Gems, Ḥoshen & coats


The formula for the Incense

Bringing the Mishkan to Mosheh


Nomination of Beẓal’el

Mosheh erected the Mishqan

The apparent duplication is a testimony to the passage from the levels of “Thought and Speech” to level of “Acting”, in which the order of the Tabernacle and its vessels get reversed. When God talked with Moshe, He spoke first of the Ark and later about the Tabernacle, because the Tabernacle is actually secondary to the Ark that contained the Holy Tablets – the Tabernacle is Mishkan haẸdut – the house of the Testimony, where the Tablets serve as witness – Ẹdut (עדות)– for the Divine Will. Beẓal’el, however, puts the Mishqan before the vessels, because in practice the Mishkan must stand up so that the vessels would be put in it. As the Midrash tells: “‘Good is Wisdom’, this is the wisdom of Beẓal’el who bequeathed to Israel the Ark and when Mosheh told him ‘make an Ark and vessels and Mishkan, the Ark told him: Mosheh our Master, can we bring in the vessel and place them in midair? Let the Mishqan be made first, and then the Ark will be made. So Moshe told him, ‘you must have been sitting by the shadow of God’ (Beẓel El), (Qohelet Raba 7,4).

What is the requisite of all those involved in the assembly of the Tabernacle was “Wisdom of Heart” (Ḥokhmat haLev חכמת הלב), and its peak was with Beẓal’el` the son of Uri, whom the Spirit of God filled with: 1. “Wisdom (Ḥokhmah), 2. Intelligence (Tevunah), 3. Knowledge (Da’ạt), and 4. All manner of workmanship (Melakhah) – namely ability of making and working out – and all these ‘in order to think up designs for working’ – namely to design art objects ‘in gold, silver and copper, to cut stones for setting (to fill – just as he was filled with spirit and mental images, so he knew to set in stones) and ‘to carve wood, to work in every kind of craft’ (31:3-5), that is, in all the skills that turn an idea into an art object. The vital requisite for the design of the future temple would also be the “Wisdom of Heart” (Ḥokhmat haLev).

Parashat Pequde:

“These (ELeH) are the records of the Tabernacle (Mishkan), the Tabernacle of the testimony” (38:21).

The word ELeH (אלה) – these – is, according to the Book of the Zohar, a part of the name ELoHIM (אלהים) – God, which has the letters “MI-ELeH” (מי-אלה) – ‘who are these?’ “ELeH” are the manifest entities and “MI” (Who?) the hidden; MI is the question and ELeH the answer or demonstration.  The purpose of the Mishkan is to demonstrate and actualize the hidden divinity.

The duplication of the word Mishkan comes to testify to there being two Tabernacles – a heavenly Tabernacle and an earthly one. This view is amplified by verse 40 chapter 25: “And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shown thee in the mountain”. This implies that Mosheh saw a heavenly Mishkan, and was commanded to make by the same pattern a Mishkan on earth. That is similar to the Temple in Jerusalem – Yerushalayim (which is a twin name, ending in the letters ‘yim’ used for twined objects). The verse “O Yerushalayim, built as a city that was joined together” (Ps. 122:3), was interpreted in the Aggadah and the Qabbalah that the earthly Jerusalem connects with the Heavenly Jerusalem,[1]and in each half of Jerusalem there is a Temple, a Heavenly and an earthly Temple.

In the last portion (Ki-Tisa) we have already discussed the double nature of Ohel Mo’ẹd – tent of Mosheh and tent of Aharon, where that of Mosheh was dedicated to live meeting (hitva’ạdutהתוועדות ) with God, whereas the tent of Aharon was intended for testimony (Ẹdut עדות) about the superior celestial harmony through the conduct of the earthly ritual. The Alte Rebbe of Ḥabad (Chabad)[2] explained that the higher (heavenly) sanctuary is the place for the unification (Yiḥud) of the Sefirot (divine attributes) of Ḥokhman-Wisdom and of Binah-Understanding (Abba veImmah – “Father and Mother” – which are represented by the letters Y’od and H’e of the Name of YHWH, and they inspire the lower sanctuary, which provides the place for the unification of the Sefirot of Tif’eret-Glory and of Malkhut-Kingdom (which are represented by the letters W’aw and H’e of the Holy Name of YHWH). Connecting the two sanctuaries completes the Name, making it whole (Likute Torah for Parashat Pequde).

It is important to realize, though, that the celestial sanctuary that Mosheh saw at the mountain was just what Mosheh was able to conceive and produce, within the constraints of his time and environment, in conditions of wandering in the desert, when even obtaining a plank of Acacia wood ten cubits long and one and a half cubit wide was almost a miracle. The Heavenly sanctuary is an object of many dimensions that are beyond human perception, and the human eye can perceive just a certain limited projection of it – or as the Midrash Raba for Exodus (34 a) explains, “the Holy One appears… upon a person only according to this person’s ability…. If He would have come to them in great strength they would not be able to endure….”.

The form, the pattern descends “from the Mountain”, from the heavenly sanctuary, whereas the working out in the material keeps advancing with the development of technology and the maturing of political and economic conditions, and it inclines to  rise over historical periods. There rises the possibility of erecting a more glorious Tabernacle or Temple – which in principle can be also more effective, as it could be possible to make more people share in experiencing the divine thereby, up to the levek of “that I may dwell (shakhan) among them” (25:8). When it becomes conceivable to build more, also the pattern of the heavenly sanctuary seems to improve. It would not have been fair to show the Second Temple to Moshe, just as it would have been unfair to show the (still) Future Temple to King Shelomoh (Solomon) and demand from him to realize its likeness.

This indeed happened, that first there was built the small Tabernacle in the desert, which then went through several changes and enlargements as it resided in the Gilgal, in shilo and in Bet-El, and then was built Miqdash Shelomoh – which was actually still rather small and mainly served as a royal chapel, and later was built the Second Temple, which reached great size in Herod’s time – and yet all these were rather small compared with the scale of Ezekiel’s visionary Temple,[3] which is arguably the realization on earth of a “Heavenly Temple” – a temple oriented upward(compared with the First and Second Temples, which were orientated on the East-West axis). The Ramḥal (Rabbi Mosheh-Ḥayim Luzzato) in his book Mishkanei Ẹlyon (Tabernacles of the Supreme) presents the Temple of Ezekiel’s vision as a Temple of Lights. According to our conception, this vision will be realized  as a giant Holograpic Temple, that will appear as lights that sparkle from the fixated cloud. An evidence that this is the true intention for the future temple (which should not be a mere copy of former forms, which is liable to turn into sort of idolatry) is evidenced from the ending of the Book of Exodus. When the Mishkan was completed and erected, the Cloud appeared in it: “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Mosheh was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud rested on it, and the Glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (40:34-35). The matter of the cloud and the sanctuary appears also in the characterization of Mount Moria according to the traditional exegesis. When Abraham and YitzWhen Abraham and Yitzḥaq went on their way to the Aqedah, and got close to haMaqom (literally “The Place”, but also a name for the Divine) “Avraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the Place (et haMaqom) afar of” (Gen. 22:4). There Rashi asks: what did he see? And answeres ‘he saw a cloud tethered to the mountain’. Current technology allows to tie a cloud to the mountain, so that it would serve as a 3-dimensional screen for projection of the Temple of Lights.

See my articles concerning this possibility:

The Temple vision of Shabbat Hazon, (at http://www.global-report.com/thehope/?l=en&a=106)

The-future-temple-is-electronic (at http://www.global-report.com/thehope/?l=en&a=3)

Preparing-the-coming-epiphany (at http://www.global-report.com/thehope/?l=en&a=36)


[1]  See (Hebrew) collection about “The Heavenly Jerusalem (Yerushalayim shel Ma’ạlah) in Jewish sources – www.global-report.com/thehope/?a=95&l=he.

[2]  Rabbi Zalman Shneur of Liadi, called endearingly “the Alte Rebbe (the Old Master), was a historic figure, as explained in the link. But the term “Alte Rebbe” is also reminiscent of what is called In the Qabbala “Yisra’el Saba” (“Grandfather Israel) – the quality that issues from the Sephirah of Wisdom and gives the clinging to the Torah. Yisra’el Saba is thus the keeper of the attachment to the Mishkan and Miqdash and the two-  thousand years old Jewish hope to restore the Temple in practice. In step with the quality of Yisrael  Saba there is the quality of Tevunah – Intelligence – that issues from the Sephierah of Binah (Understanding) and which serves to make things well.

[3]  The Temple of Ezekiel’s vision had the same numbers for its length and width – but not in cubits but by measuring rods of a little over six cubits each, therefore Ezekiel’s envisioned a temple 37 times larger than the Second Temple. See the essay in the link. 

To Top