Tetzaveh | Being and Doing in the Mishkan

  • Rav Itiel Gold
In memory of Rabbi Dr. Joseph I. Singer z"l,
Rabbi Emeritus of Manhattan Beach Jewish Center,
and son-in-law of Dr. Chaim Heller z"l,
whose yahrzeit falls on 12 Adar,
by his daughter, Vivian Singer
Dedicated in memory of Zvi Kassel z"l,
whose yahrzeit is the 10th of Adar
by Patrice and Danielle Rueff
Parashat Teruma in Contrast to Parashat Tetzaveh*
Parashat Tetzaveh can easily be seen as a direct continuation of the command regarding the Mishkan that began in Parashat Teruma. We often read the two parashot together, which strengthens the impression that they constitute a single unit. Upon closer examination, however, we see that it is not by chance that those who arranged the weekly Torah readings separated Parashat Tetzaveh from Parashat Teruma. While it is true that both parashot describe the preparations that were to be made for the Mishkan, they do so from completely different directions.
The gap between the two parashot is apparent even in their names. "Teruma" means contribution, a free-will desire on the part of the people of Israel to build the Mishkan: "Speak to the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; from every man whose heart makes him willing, you shall take My offering" (Shemot 25:2). Within the perspective of Parashat Teruma, we can imagine a theoretical situation in which the people of Israel choose not to donate to the Mishkan, it is not built, and everything is all right.
In contrast, Parashat "Tetzaveh" opens with an entirely different tone. All of a sudden, the Mishkan is not voluntary but obligatory: "And you shall command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually" (27:20). This contrast raises a question: Was the Mishkan built as a voluntary act or as an obligation? How is it possible that the menora of Parashat Teruma depended on the good will of the people, but the lighting of its lamps in Parashat Tetzaveh is described as an obligation?
What is more, the very separation between Parashat Teruma and Parashat Tetzaveh is difficult to understand. Parashat Teruma describes the vessels of the Mishkan in great detail, but without explaining the service that would be performed with them. The description of the service is pushed off to Parashat Tetzaveh. This split is particularly striking in the accounts relating to the menora and the burnt-offering altar.
Parashat Teruma describes the menora at length, with its branches, cups, knobs, and blossoms (25:31-36). Only at the end of the detailed description do we find a short reference to the lamps that burn in the menora: "and he shall light the lamps thereof, to give light over against it" (25:37). It remains unclear, however, when the lamps are to be lit, which combustible material will be lit, and who does the lighting.[1]
The answers to these questions are provided only at the beginning of our parasha:
And you shall command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually… Aharon and his sons shall set it in order, to burn from evening to morning before the Lord… (27:20-21)
Only now are we told the lighting material – olive oil; when the lamps are lit – from evening to morning; and who does the lighting – Aharon and his sons.
We find something similar with regard to the burnt-offering altar. Parashat Teruma describes the appearance of the altar in detail (27:1-8) but says nothing about what to do with it. That question is answered only in our parasha:
Now this is what you shall do upon the altar: two lambs of the first year, day by day continually… (29:38-42)
Only now are we told the basic action that is to be performed at the altar: the ritual of the daily offering.[2]
The shulchan (table) also appears in Parashat Teruma with no explanation as to how it is to be used in the service (25:23-29). The account of its service does not even appear in our parasha, but is pushed off even further, to the book of Vayikra (24:5-8).
Only with respect to the incense altar does our parasha provide a description of the vessel together with an account of the service to be performed with it (30:1-10). This is because the incense altar does not appear at all in Parashat Teruma – a fact which is puzzling in itself.[3] A vessel that appears for the first time in our parasha, like the incense altar, can appear together with the way it was to be used in the service. However, it is precisely the "normal" account of the incense altar, which combines the description of the vessel with that of the service performed with it, that highlights the question regarding the split between Parashat Teruma and Parashat Tetzaveh: Why create an artificial separation between the account of a vessel and the account of the service performed with it? Why not describe the two together?
To complete the picture, let us present two more prominent differences between the two parashot, which might help us explain the separation between them:
1) The priests do not appear at all in Parashat Teruma, but they are the main topic of Parashat Tetzaveh. Once again, this artificial split is puzzling. How is it possible to describe the Mishkan throughout Parashat Teruma without making any mention of the priests who perform the service in it?
2) The Holy of Holies is the main focus of Parashat Teruma. The parasha opens with it and describes at length the ark and the keruvim that are found in it. In our study of Parashat Teruma, we demonstrated how the entire parasha is built around the encounter between God and Moshe, which takes place in the Holy of Holies. In contrast, in our parasha, the Holy of Holies is entirely missing.
Let us summarize the differences between the parashot:
Parashat Teruma
Parashat Tetzaveh
Voluntary act
Description of the vessels
Description of the service performed with the vessels
No mention of priests
Priests stand at the center
The essence of the Mishkan – the Holy of Holies
No mention of the Holy of Holies
The Mishkan – Active or Silent?
All of the differences above lead us to understand that the two parashot describe, as it were, two different types of Mishkan. Parashat Teruma speaks of a silent Mishkan, with no activity. Vessels are found in the Mishkan, but there is no service. In a silent Mishkan, there is clearly no need for priests. Its essence is the Holy of Holies, a place where no service is performed and where the priests do not even enter, a place which serves only as a resting place for the ark and for the Shekhina.[4]
In contrast, the Mishkan of Parashat Tetzaveh is an active Mishkan – a place where things are done continually: "to cause a lamp to burn continually" (27:20); "two lambs of the first year day by day continually" (29:38); and "a perpetual incense" (30:8). Priests are needed to conduct this continual activity in the Mishkan. The priests are given great importance in our parasha and merit "holy garments" (28:2), which are described at length (chapter 28). Now the focus is on them, rather than on the vessels, which are merely means for their service. The "Mishkan of doing" includes the courtyard and the main sanctuary; the Holy of Holies, however, contains no activity and is therefore missing completely from Parashat Tetzaveh.
It seems that the difference between the two types of Mishkan is connected to two different objectives of the Mishkan.
The Mishkan has one overarching purpose – to make it possible for God's Shekhina to rest upon the people of Israel. This purpose appears both at the beginning of the command regarding the Mishkan in Parashat Teruma, and at the end of that command in Parashat Tetzaveh:
Beginning (Parashat Teruma): "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them" (25:8).
End (Parashat Tetzaveh): "And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God" (29:45).
            In the middle, however, it is possible to identify other objectives of the Mishkan, in accordance with the different parashot:
In Parashat Teruma, God's Shekhina expresses itself in God's speech to Moshe, as described at the beginning of the parasha: "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the ark-cover, from between the two keruvim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all the things which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel" (25:22). The vessels stand in silence, as a backdrop for this main event – God's speech with Moshe in the Holy of Holies.[5]
In contrast, the Divine activity of Parashat Tetzaveh is connected to a meeting between God and the people of Israel: "And there I will meet with the children of Israel; and [the tent] shall be sanctified by My glory" (29:43).
There is a significant difference between the meeting with Moshe and the meeting with the children of Israel. This difference is stated explicitly toward the end of our parasha:
… at the door of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you [plural], to speak there to you [singular]. (29:42)
The meeting is with you, in the plural, but the speaking is only to you, in the singular. The people of Israel can reach the experience of meeting with God, but Moshe can reach an even higher level, of hearing His direct speech. The end of Parashat Naso describes this experience: "And when Moshe went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking to him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two keruvim; and He spoke to him" (Bamidbar 7:89). This experience is unique to Moshe, about whom it is stated: "With him do I speak mouth to mouth" (Bamidbar 12:8).
This difference can deepen our understanding of the differences between the two parashot. The Mishkan of Parashat Teruma, which we have called the "silent Mishkan," is in essence the "Mishkan of the speech" to Moshe. In this Mishkan, there is no need for priests or activity. The Mishkan is essentially the creation of a special place for hearing God's speech. At Moshe’s unique level, when the appropriate structure and vessels are created, it becomes possible to meet God and hear His voice.
The people of Israel, however, cannot hear God’s speech, nor can they meet with Him whenever they want. They require continual activity in order to create the encounter – lighting the lamps, offering the daily sacrifices, and burning the daily incense.
Moshe hears Divine speech from the Holy of Holies, and therefore it is the main place for him. In contrast, the people of Israel, who meet God through doing, focus on the rest of the Mishkan, and act opposite the Holy of Holies but not inside it. The activity opposite God is emphasized with regard to several of the vessels: the menora (Shemot 27:21); the burnt-offering altar (29:42); and most prominently, the incense altar:
And you shall put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the ark-cover that is over the testimony, where I will meet with you. (30:6)  
The priests, as representatives of the people, operate opposite the place where Moshe meets with God, the Holy of Holies. This is how the people of Israel encounter God.
The World of Being vis-à-vis the World of Doing
In psychological thought, a distinction is made between two fundamental states of a person: the state of being and the state of doing. In the state of being, the person experiences and is connected to his inner world. This is a comfortable place, a place of the person's quiet presence with himself and the world. This state allows for containment of the thoughts and feelings that stem from within him, and the person finds contentment in the very experience. The state of doing, on the other hand, is connected to productive activity as the person moves outward. The person goes out from himself and acts in the objective world, where he tries to achieve satisfaction. Naturally, there is a need for both movements and for balance between them. But there is also importance to the order of the movement between them. The healthy state is where the being precedes the doing: from the connection to the self, one goes out and does in the external world. In this way, the doing becomes an expression and a continuation of the internal. On the other hand, when the doing precedes the being, a disconnect is created between the person's activity in the external world and his inner desires. This is a state of falsehood and of distance from the self.
In light of the above, Parashat Teruma expresses the state of being.[6] This is the place of the intimate encounter between Moshe and God, in the Mishkan that is silent of activity. Moshe is able to be in such a high state of being that he hears Divine speech. A precise reading of the verse cited above from Parashat Naso indicates that God does not even talk to Moshe, but rather talks to Himself: "And when Moshe went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, then he heard the Voice speaking [midaber] to him" (Bamidbar 7:89); God "was speaking to Himself, and Moshe of himself heard it" (Rashi, ad loc.). God exists, as it were, in an inner state of being. Moshe is also in a state of being, without doing, and thus he connects to God's speech to Himself.
Now we can understand why Parashat Teruma is built on voluntarism. The state of being is created out of connection to one's inner will, from a sense of freedom. Outside coercion and commandments to act belong to the state of doing in the external world. There, one can act even without connection to his personal desire.
This is also the essential idea of the Holy of Holies, which is given a central place in Parashat Teruma: a place where there is no service, but only the presence of the ark and the tablets, which allow for the presence of the Shekhina in the Mishkan – a state of being, not doing.
The people of Israel, in contrast, are not on the level to encounter God via the state of being. An ordinary person in Israel cannot simply enter quietly into himself and in that way hear the word of God. The more attainable channel is through activity and doing in the external world. For this purpose, the Mishkan of Parashat Tetzaveh is erected, the Mishkan of doing. This is a Mishkan of continual activity, opposite the quiet inner experience of the Holy of Holies. This is the Mishkan that is built through command and external obligation, like the name of the parasha – "and you shall command." Such activity does not allow for hearing God's speech, but it can create a meeting between God and Israel. The continual doing in the Mishkan, opposite the Holy of Holies, can raise Israel, through effort, to the ultimate meeting with God.
The Union of the Two Mishkans
Thus far, we have described the two types of Mishkan as separate from each other, in order to clarify their different aspects. Ultimately, however, there was only one Mishkan. From Parashat Teruma, we come to Parashat Tetzaveh. From being, which allows the most intimate encounter, we move towards the full world of doing. The being – Parashat Teruma – precedes the doing – Parashat Tetzaveh. The activity of the Mishkan is not detached from the internal and exalted experience, but rather is created from it. Were it not for the Holy of Holies and the Divine speech heard from it, all of the continual doing in the Mishkan would lose its meaning.
The harmonious flow between the two Mishkans is expressed in the section dealing with the days of milu'im, "inauguration," which appears in our parasha. These are the only days in which Moshe functions as a priest who offers sacrifices (29:3). He is the one who actively sanctifies the priests by dressing them in their garments and performing a detailed ceremony that includes various sacrifices, with sprinklings and wavings (29:1-37). Moshe seems to share his own sanctity with the priests. Only Moshe, "the man of being," who is capable of hearing the voice of God – only he is capable of creating the doing of the Mishkan, which flows from him to the priests.[7] In this way, what the priests do in the Mishkan stems directly from the intimate encounter with God and is not detached from it.
We live today without the Temple, but these ideas have significance even in our times. The world of mitzvot stems from Parashat Tetzaveh. This is the world of commands and continual doing, which stems from the longing to meet with God. There exists, however, a danger that this doing will become detached from its source in Parashat Teruma, from the place of quiet and intimate encounter with God – an encounter that does not include doing and obligation, but only the heart’s desire to meet and to hear the voice of God. Only from this place is it possible move towards continual doing, opposite God.
(Translated by David Strauss)

* Rav Gold is a psychologist and teacher of Jewish philosophy.
[1] It seems that even this one verse that does describe the lighting relates more to the form of the menora than to the action performed with it: the menora must have lamps that give light over against it.
[2] Rav Elchanan Samet, in his article, "Parashat Olat ha-Tamid", proves that the section dealing with the daily offering in our parasha constitutes a direct continuation of the section dealing with the structure of the altar in Parashat Teruma. He suggests a localized explanation for separating the section dealing with the altar from the section dealing with the burnt-offering. We will try to provide a broader explanation for the split, which, as stated, appears both in connection with the altar and in connection with the menora.
[3] Many suggestions have been made to explain why the section dealing with the incense altar was pushed off to our parasha, but that question is beyond the scope of the present discussion.  
[4] The only service that is connected to the Holy of Holies is performed on Yom Kippur. Even there, we are not dealing with a real service, but rather with a purification of the place from the impurity of the people of Israel: "And he shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the impurities of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, even all their sins" (Vayikra 16:16).
[5] See our study of Parashat Teruma for a discussion regarding how the vessels enable the encounter with God.
[6] The connection between the term "havaya" (being) and the Tetragrammaton is interesting. The closest encounter with God is connected to the experience of "being."
[7] The idea that the priests are essentially a continuation of Moshe is presented also in the account of Moshe's personal history in the book of Bamidbar: "Now these are the generations of Aharon and Moshe in the day that the Lord spoke with Moshe in Mount Sinai. And these are the names of the sons of Aharon…" (Bamidbar 3:1-2). The sons of Aharon are the generations of Moshe, apparently in the spiritual sense. This idea is well expressed in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 19b): "Rabbi Shemuel bar Nachmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: He who teaches the son of his neighbor the Torah, Scripture ascribes it to him as if he had begotten him, as it says: 'Now, these are the generations of Aharon and Moshe'; while further on it is written: 'These are the names of the sons of Aharon.'"