In this week’s parsha we find the account of the construction of the mishkan. After all of the preparations and construction we are finally ready for the final act and inauguration of the mishkan. I would like to point out one interesting issue and request your help with another.
The date of the erection of the mishkan seems to be a simple issue as it appears clearly in the parsha. Shmot 40:2 “On the first day of the first month …”. This is complicated, however, by trying to figure out how the seven days of miluim and the eighth day from parshat shmini fit into the calendar.
Rashi quotes Chazal as explaining that the mishkan was put up on the 23rd of Adar and the seven days began at that point, making the eighth day Rosh Chodesh Nissan. (See Rashi on our parsha shmot 40:2 and Rashi at the beginning of shmini) This was followed by a twelve-day period of the offerings of the Nessim as recorded in Parshat Nasso.
The Ibn Ezra on the other hand claims that the milluim began on Rosh Chodesh Nissan and were completed by the “yom hashmini” which was the eighth of Nissan and only at that stage did the Nessim begin to make their daily offerings. According to his calculations the entire process was completed by the 19th of Nissan. (I encourage you to take a look in the Ibn Ezra to see how he deals with the problem of Peasach of that year that took place during the whole inauguration process).
One of the proofs that he brings concerns the people who were concerned with Pesach Sheni. The Torah tells us that “there were those who were impure and could not bring the korban pesaach in its proper time”. Who were these people? The gemara explains that these were Mishael and Eltzaphan who were responsible for removing the bodies of Nadav and Avihu when they were killed in the mishkan on the “eighth day”. According the chronology presented by the Ibn Ezra this would have been on the 8th of Nissan, which would have indeed created a problem for bringing the Korban Pesach on the 14th (as tumat met is seven days long). According to Rashi this doesn’t work, as they should have had plenty of time to complete the Tahara process in time to bring the Korban.
The second issue that I would like to address in this shiur is a peculiar element of the miluim process. During the seven days of the miluim Moshe served in the Bet Hamikdash and performed all of the functions of the regular running of the mikdash. In addition the Midrash tells us that he took the mishkan apart each and every day. They infer this from the passuk in Parshat nasso “byom kalot Moshe lehakim et hamishkan” “The day Moshe “finished” erecting the mishkan” implying that he was involved in putting it up on previous occasions. The Midrash Tanchuma and the Talmud Yerushalmi go even further stating that not only did Moshe take down the mishkan each and every day of the miluim but in fact he did this twice a day according to one opinion and according to another three times a day!! The Yerushalmi debates the problems inherent in such an act as Aharon and his sons were instructed not to leave the entrance to the Ohel Moed for seven days. The Yerushalmi wonders how was this possible if there was in fact no Ohel Moed at all for part of each day. (The answer provided relates closely to the concept of “tamid” which we discussed here a few weeks ago see midreshetharova.org.il/tezaveh5763.htm)
In my mind this seems very strange, it would seem that the purpose of the miluim was to train the Kohanim in the avodah. It would follow that the necessary acts to be performed would be those directly related to the korbanot. The fact that the mishkan could be disassembled and reassembled does not seem to be part of the avodah, rather it seems to be a convenient aspect of a portable mikdash. Why was it incumbent upon Moshe to put it up and take it down each and every day?
This question is strengthened by the discussion mentioned above that reports multiple times each day that this same process took place.
It would seem that this is more than mere practice, not to mention the great effort on Moshe’s part to take the entire mishkan apart and reassemble it three times a day for a solid week.
I would like to add one more piece to the puzzle: The Midrash in Bamidbar says that the Mishkan received its kedusha in three different ways. It was made holy by the “shemen hamishcha”- the anointing oil, by being put together and lastly by being taken apart. The implication of this Midrash is that in order to infuse the mishkan with actual kedusha one possible method was actually taking it apart!!
I would be interested to hear from any of the readers as to what you think this elusive practice represents. Why was it that the Torah sees the dismantling of the mishkan as an inherent part of the avodah and not simply a technical point that allowed the easy transport of the mishkan in the journeys in the desert?
In closing I would like to note a comment of Rav Hirsch who sees the putting up and taking down of the mishkan as a sign for the future. Rav Hirsch remarks that in our history the Mishkan/Mikdash has been erected and dismantled seven times, the desert,Gigal, Shilo, Nov, Givon, the first Bet Hamikdash and the second Bet Hamikdash . We eagerly await the “eighth” day on which the next Mikdash will be erected and will remain standing forever.