Sefer HaChinuch 95 To build a Mishkan

Author: Esther Ehrman
Tammuz 5781/July 2021

Sefer haChinuch

95 To build a Mishkan

We have moved from the mitzvot Mishpatim to Teruma, from Sinai where H’ declared Himself to be our G-d. We can now learn to be His people. It is a continuation of Ma’amad Har Sinai. Just as we could not approach the mountain because of its holiness, we need to keep our distance from the kedusha of the Tabernacle, the Mishkanto ensure its purity and that of the person who enters it. There, in a Mishkan, H’ will communicate with us, in a Mishkan that we make (Read Ex 25.8).

It is required to have in mind fear and awe to come near to the KADOSH (Num 19). And though you are unlikely to understand whatever is to be learnt from this Mitzva you have an obligation to work at it. G-d's aim is to do us good (Read Ekev Deut 10. 12,13,14). It is not enough to want to be good. It is better to do mitzvot for the love of G-d than for the reard.

G-d does not need a House but is pleased if we deserve it and are ready to worship as He specifies G-d chose that site for our good, because pure place had to be ready for us, to make us worthy or for some other reason or because it is the centre of the world, to raise our minds towards Him and to connect us to Him. That explains why the Shechina can dwell there.

Our Sages also said that the Shechina does not dwell there because of the worshipers. G-d, even without them, would dwell there anyway. It also had to be worthy of Him to enable us to be there, in the land, just as when He sent us a prophet to teach us to be worthy, for our good out of love for His creatures. The more good deeds, the more blessings and kedusha. So the more worshipers there are, the better.

It is not enough to say to the wall that one has sinned. One needs to act on it. G-d does not need it, but the act makes a greater impression on the person. Therefore korbanot have their place. They are the act - Sefer ha Chinuch quotes Ramban that all actions are required, the ritual from Viduy to Sprinkling. From confession over the anima to sprinkling the blood on the altar. Together they complete act of repentance in the Korban. The Tamid sacrifice is in the name of and serves the whole people, a Korban Tzibur daily, because there are many people. So there will always be some sinning - they sin all of the time.

Sefer haChinuch supports the Rambam here. Sefer haChinuch adds to Ramban’s usual mystical explanation the ‘plain’ explanation that we sacrifice things that we love: wine, meat, bread of the poor man, to whom it is valuable, as is his flour. Likewise an animal sacrifice helps to make an impression on us because of its likeness to our physical selves, except that it lacks the intelligence that gives value to our body. Its value is ‘ze tachat ze’. It is burnt on the altar - the place that raises us, but the sin is made void by being burnt instead of our physical part. Be glad, he says, to have a spiritual part - it has eternal life. The body can acquire it; we are, aware that it has both aspects and accompanies full repentance. If the sin is deliberate, it needs a ‘rod’. Bringing a korban imprints this lesson on us.

The sinner should know that the goat sent to Azazel with the sins of all the people on Yom Kippur is guaranteed to take all his sins and make them pure, even after the event, however wicked he is and that his soul will have some survival in after life having a physical body like his. There is some survival in the ash of the goat that is not sent away. It is not removed for a long time. The goat of Yom Kippur that carries the multitude of all sins is like a great sinner. The sins do not die at once, they are thrown to the desert and disappear from our earth. Because of G-d’s love for His people they will perish quickly (shot way down the mountain). This is to encourage witnesses to mend their ways - to chastise gives us a moral teaching in love. We seem unable to understand the different rituals of different Korbanot. For this we need the ‘masters of the mystic tradition'.

The Torah gives commandments that are suited to sins - a Tzoraat, a leper brings birds. His sin was gossip; Sotah, the unfaithful wife, brings barley, she acted like an animal by her adultery. The Niddah waits 7 days, to make herself desirable to her husband; all this shows that there are often many implications in any one Mitzva.

The Bet Mikdash built there so that Korbanot should be brought there and nowhere else. There was an Ulam, a Kodesh and a Kodesh Kodashim. The three together form the Heichal and there are hangings to separate these. As in the Mishkan where Curtains (Ex 27,9), separate the Azara. The needs of Mikdash: e.g. utensils mentioned in Torah, houses for the Cohanim on dut. Anything damaged is melted and replaced by new. Boundaries are set for Israelites and Kohanim in Azara with houses (Lishkah) for the needs of Mikdash Plans and Furniture of Bet haMikdash are in Gemara, Middot and Yoma - Table, Menorah. This Mitzva applies when most of the Jewish people are living in Israel. It applies to the community. It is a positive Mitzva once Temple is rebuilt, bim’hera, be yameinu.

Much of this Mitva is not about actually building a Bet Hamikdash. It is about what takes place there and why it was given and about what that teaches us as well as discussing how the ritual is for our good.