The main question many people have regarding this week’s parsha is–why now? Why are we told about the building of the Mishkan–Tabernacle (the forerunner of the Temple) immediately after being given all the laws in Parshat Mishpatim? Especially since according to both Rashi and Seforno (Rav Ovadia Seforno) the only reason the Mishkan was built was in order to be an atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf. If so, we haven’t read about the sin of the Golden Calf yet, so why does the building of the Tabernacle precede it? The only reason that would make sense for switching the order would be if this topic continues the theme of the previous one, so as not to interrupt one idea. But then of course we must ask–how does the building of the Mishkan continue the theme of the giving of the laws?
When people find out that I worked as a stock analyst on Wall Street before coming to Israel, they inevitably ask me two questions. One is a genuine, concerned inquiry as to my mental health for having left a career on Wall Street. My futile attempt to make a connection by saying that my current job is in fact located even closer to the “Wall”, only seems to turn their concern into reality. The other question usually is “How does an analyst determine a good investment?” This second question is much easier to answer and I usually give them the shortened version of “Investment Analysis 101” by saying that a successful company is determined by three things: 1) there must be a good idea or product for the company to market, 2) the idea must be communicated to investors so they will buy the company’s stock, and 3) the idea must be constantly reinforced through good marketing strategies–which often takes the form of the company’s management meeting with the major shareholders to “sell” the product. However, a really successful product doesn’t need to have the management constantly on the road to market it because it will somehow depict the idea itself, so that anyone seeing it is immediately reminded of the idea behind it.
It seems like Hashem wanted to start a company (more accurately, a world) and the idea that He wanted to market through this company, was humility. The concept of humility is taught and hinted at too often in the Torah for it not to be extremely significant. Using our stock criteria mentioned above, we see, first of all, that this idea of humility is a pretty concrete idea because a world cannot exist without it. A world without humility, has everyone thinking “I can do whatever I want because no one is as important as I am so there is no one to be accountable to, not even G-d”. That kind of thinking leads to chaos, under which no world will exist for long. So Hashem takes this solid idea and creates a company/world with it. The next step is communicating this idea to potential shareholders. To do so, Hashem uses a prospectus (a document used to explain a new company’s idea, goals, financial projections, etc.) called the Torah, to try to get people to buy into this idea of humility, by recognizing there is a G-d Who is all-powerful, all-knowing, Who provides for us, and to Whom we are accountable. After Hashem goes around to many types of investors (nations) to see if they will accept this prospectus and after all of them say that the stock does not really fit their current portfolio, He finally convinces one group (nation) to become CORE shareholders–i.e. those who acquire a big stake in a company and who hold onto the stock through all kinds of market cycles. This group is the Jews. And Hashem gives them this prospectus on the smallest of mountains, which also symbolizes the idea of humility that He is trying to sell them. He even makes the portfolio managers–those who oversee this investment (i.e. the judges) learn this idea of humility, by having them sit near the Mizbeach (altar) which is another symbol of humility. Now, Hashem has reached the final stage–creating some sort of product to reflect this idea of humility, so that He doesn’t have to spend all his time on the road marketing it (after all, He is busy with many other things). But what symbol should He use?
In Parshat Terumah, Hashem tells the Jews that it is time to build his Mishkan and He asks that everyone make a donation. In fact, in the first three verses of this portion, Hashem mentions giving a donation three different times. He says (25:1-3) “And tkae for me a donation from anyone whose heart wishes to donate, you shall take my donation”. And this is the donation that you shall take from them gold, silver and copper….”. A bit repetitious. But Rashi says that it is really not repeating the same thing three times, but rather Hashem is asking for three separate donations for three different things. One donation was for the “Adanim”–sockets made of silver which held the boards which cordoned off the outside courtyard of the Tabernacle. Another donation was for the public sacrifices which were brought every day. And a third was for all the vessels in the Tabernacle.
Kli Yakar (R. Shlomo Efraim of Luntchitz) adds that the three areas that the donations were used for, represent the idea of humility. In the first case, the word adanim (sockets) comes from the root Adon-which means master. The first step in being humble is recognizing that there is a Master–someone who is above us, in control, guiding the world and our lives, etc. The second area that the donations went toward–i.e. animal sacrifices–brings home the idea that we are accountable to this Master. The animal sacrifices acted as a replacement for human beings who, as a result of their transgressions, deserve to be sacrificed. This implies accountability for our actions. The third use for the donations was for all the vessels in the Tabernacle. The question is, how do the vessels represent humility?
If you look at the instructions for the making of the vessels, you’ll notice that each had specific measurements. The Aron–the ark which held the tablets with the Ten Commandments–measured 2 1/2 amot in length, 1 1/2 amot in width and 1 1/2 amot in height. The Shulchan–a table on which the showbreads were placed–was 2 in length, 1 in width, 1 1/2 in height. And the altar–on which the sacrifices were offered–was 5 in length, 5 in width, and 3 in height. Why didn’t Hashem make it easier on the craftsmen by having whole measurements? Or if there is a reason to have broken ones, why are the Table’s measurements only partly broken and those of the altar, all whole?
The Rabbis tell us that the vessels of the Tabernacle represented different concepts. The Aron represents Torah, as the original tablets of the Ten Commandments, were kept inside it. When it comes to learning Torah, a person should never be satisfied with his or her current level of knowledge, but should always feel like there is much more to learn. As it says in Ethics of the Fathers (4:1) “Who is knowledgeable? One who learns from his fellow man”. In other words, don’t think that you know it all; realize that you can learn something from everyone because your knowledge is never complete. To symbolize this idea, ALL the measurements of the Aron are broken, to show a person’s Torah knowledge is never complete but there is always more to learn.
The Table represents physical needs/materialism–because it held the showbreads, which represent sustenance and fulfilling one’s desires. Regarding a person’s material needs, Ethics of the Fathers (ibid.) says “Who is Rich? One who is happy with his lot”. Interestingly, the Table is the only vessel to have both broken and complete measurements. This implies that a person is supposed to feel like he has everything he needs (hence the complete measurements) despite the fact that it may not be alot compared to what the next person has (hence the broken measurement). Sometimes, even people who are rich are not happy with what they have because they don’t feel like it’s enough–they are constantly looking for more. Only if you feel like you have everything you need, can you really be happy.
Of all the vessels, the altar most obviously represents humility as it was filled with earth. Earth is used as a symbol of lowliness as the Rabbis remind us that no matter how “great” we become in this world, we all end up back in the earth (i.e. the grave). If that’s the case, why aren’t its measurements broken? Perhpas because Judaism does not consider a humble person to be someone who thinks that he is worthless and denies any good qualities and skills that he may have. Judaism says humility is about acknowledging that you have certain talents and recognizing that they are gifts from Hashem so that you will use them correctly. Therefore, the measurements of the Mizbeach are all complete, because you have to think of yourself as being worthwhile, in order to properly use the gifts that Hashem gave you. Having the judges sit next to the Mizbeach teaches the same idea. On the one hand, the judges were the creme of the crop of the Jews (the criteria for being a judge were quite high–they had to be rich, handsome, smart, etc.) and they had to realize that. But at the same time, they had to curb their inclination which would allow this knowledge to “go to their head”. They had to remain humble and figure out how to use their qualities wisely–i.e. being rich was supposed to make them less susceptible to taking bribes, etc.
So maybe we’re being told about the building of the Mishkan now, as the third and final step in Hashem’s marketing process. Two weeks ago, we received the prospectus for Hashem’s company, by receiving the Torah (Parshat Yitro). Last week, we made our investment, by agreeing to take on the laws when the Jews said “We will do and we will hear” at the end of Parshat Mishpatim. And this week Hashem has us build a product that will inherently reflect this idea, so we will always have a reminder of the idea that we’ve invested in.
Having done extensive analysis of this company over many years, I would advise my clients, to invest in this stock, ticker symbol JEW, trading on market exchanges all over the world. I believe this security will provide a significant return in both the short and long term. However, the stock is not without risk. During times of market volatility, investors in this stock may be concerned that their investment is losing value. In addition, the stock could face pressure from outside sources, who will try to accuse the company of being the source of that market volatility. As a result, investors may feel like swapping out of this stock into another that promises a bigger yield in the short term. I would strongly advise against doing that. According to my financial models and the quantitative and qualitative analysis I have completed on this company, I am confident that any pullbacks in this stock, will be short-term, paper losses only. In fact, I recommend using any pullbacks in price as a buying opportunity, to increase the yield on your investment. In summary, based on the potential for significant returns on this investment, I recommend purchase of this stock as a core holding for any portfolio.