Succot Lecture Part Six: Recreating The Mishkan
The Jews had the opportunity with the first Luchot, and they made a serious mistake, they made the eigel. And when they made the eigel, they lost everything. They lost the luchot, they lost this unbelievable level, the intensity of the relationship with Hashem.
And when Hashem says, you know what, make a Mishkan, make a Mikdash and you will be able to bring the Shechina back. And everyone was desperate to do it, we know that it was the most successful fund raising campaign in history. There’s too much money, they had to stop.
They finished the succah, Moshe Rabbeinu puts it up, if you look at the closing paragraph of Sefer Shemot, an incredible thing happens.
“Vayechas heanan es ohel moed,” they finally finish putting together the mishkan, they are desperate to know, is it true, can we actually bring the presence of G-d to a building? Yes we followed all the instructions but to think that what we had a Sinai, we can have in a building that we made? And a cloud comes and covers the mishkan. “U’kvod Adoshem memaleh et hamishkan,” “and the Glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan.”
Wow, this is incredible. So now, can we use it? How does it work? You may have taught us all the rules, but now we are seeing it, we have seen literally the Shechina filling the mishkan.
So Moshe tries to go and enter the Mishkan, “velo yachol Moshe lavo el ohel moed,” even Moshe Rabbeinu could not enter. The Divine Presence was so manifest that even Moshe, “ki shakan elav henan,” the cloud was there, Moshe couldn’t get through. “U’chevod Adonai malei et Hamishakan,” and the glory of Hashem filled the mishkan. Even Moshe could not – unbelievable.
Hashem tells them to start building the mishkan, and by the way, why is it Succos is on the 15th Tishrei, why the 15th Tishrei of all days, why not pesach time? Because the clouds left after the Golden Calf. They came back when they began to work on the Mishkan, because Hashem said you’re creating a house for Me, I will create a house for you. Moshe came down on the 10th Tishrei, Yom Kippur, with the 2nd luchos, that’s where we were yesterday, at Sinai, when Moshe came down with the 2nd luchos. Today was the day that Moshe was teaching us, what we needed to contribute to build this building. It took them 3 days after the day of the instructions to gather all that money. 3 days. And they began the construction on the 15th Tishrei. And Hashem said, you’re building a house for me, now I will again give you your home. And this is how the Vilna Gaon explains it in his commentary to Shir Hashirim.
So imagine, they do all this work. They build the Mishkan, they finish. The clouds come, incredible. G-d is there, we did it. And then we can’t go in? Even Moshe Rabbeinu can’t go in? And obviously, Hashem worked it out, that eventually Moshe could go in, Aharon could go in, the Kohanim could go in. but there had to be that one moment in which they realized that what they had created with their own hands was so powerful and so real, that it would bring the shechina of Hashem down to such an extent that even Moshe Rabbeinu the greatest of all neviim who could speak to G-d, panim el panim, could not enter.
There has to be a moment, after the ‘as if,’ after saying halacha tells us that there is no such thing as something that is impossible, after we take the Shechina of Yom Kippur and put it into our s’chach, after we say to that s’chach we want to sit under the wings of the Shechina.
There should be one moment when we stand outside our succah on Wednesday night before we enter when we should create in our minds the image of what that first succah, that first Mishkan, was like. That the presence of G-d was so real, that even Moshe Rabbeinu could not enter.
And if we stop for one second, when we are ready to first enter the succah on Succot and understand that with the ‘as if’ and that with the impossible and with Yom Kippur and with the choice to sit under the Shechina, the Shechina is so real in this succah perhaps we should be afraid of entering as Moshe was afraid of entering the mishkan. Then when we actually sit in the succah we will be able to experience the Shechina, the divine presence, as something that is very real.