Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Parshas Pikudei – Mishkan times: its Completion and Construction

Parshas Pikudei – Mishkan times:  its Completion and Construction

Tzvi Abraham

M’soret Askenaz goes back a very long time, and going back to the  12th century, we find a mystical movement that is truly our own:  Chassidut Ashkenaz, which consolidates the ancient mystical tradition of Chazel. 

That tradition has been preserved in the writings of two Gedolei Yisrael:  R’ Yehudah Hachassid (best known as the author of Sefer Chassidim), and R’ Elazar Hagadol of Worms  (“the Rokeach) his  illustrious  talmid.  R’ Elazar was a prolific writer of  siphrei halachah, kabbalah and commentaries, including a multi-volume commentary on the Torah. 

In his commentary on this week’s parsha, R’ Elazar points out (citing the psikta  Rabbasi ) that although the Mishkan was set up on the first of Nissan, the work of creating its many parts was completed on the 25th of Kislev.   Indeed, the gematria of the words ותכל כל עבודת המשכן is the same as  בעשרים וחמישה בכסליו נגמר --  one of  the Rokeach’s many astounding gematrias.

The gematria suggests that  the completion of the parts of the Mishkan (as opposed to its construction) on the first day of Chanukah was not by chance or for any accidental reason: for Hashem created the world “looking into the Torah.” 

הסתכל באורייתא וברא עלמא[i]

When the work of the Mishkan would be completed was also part of the Master Plan.

Why did Hashem ordain that it be completed just then?  Why did Moshe delay setting it up until Nissan even though the people were complaining to him, saying:   “Why the delay?  Is there a problem with it?”[ii] 

The midrash (cited by the Rokeach) explains that Hashem delayed setting up the Mishkan until Nissan so that the joy of the Mishkan would be celebrated in the month of Yitzchak’s birth.   What about  the month of Kislev?  Did it lose out entirely?  No.  there would be another chanukas habayis, and it would take place in Kislev.

הסתכל באורייתא וברא עלמא (Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world).   As above, so below.  This principle applies to everything Hashem created.  For, for example, the Rokeach tells us,[iii]  when a person is born, an angel  with his face is created in Heaven.   The next level down from the heavenly sphere, the domain of angels, is the planetary sphere, and there the newborn also appears, for his nature is configured by the arrangement of the  planets .

Since the timing of the construction of the  Mishkan is in the Torah, the same principle applies:  “as above so below”  and we would expect some indication of it in the heavenly and planetary spheres. And, indeed, he tells us that while Moses was setting up the Mishkan below, the Angels were setting up a Mishkan above.[iv] As above, so below.

Where do we see a suggestion of the timing of the construction of the Mishkan in the planetary sphere?

In the fact that the Mishkan was constructed in the sign of Aries, the zodiacal sign of  Chodesh Nissan. “It was the reason that the fire of the Shekhinah descended onto the Mishkan.” [v]

“It was the reason…,”  the Rokeach tells us.  What was the reason?  That the sign of Aries is identified with fire? (Each of the 12 signs of the Zodidac is associated with one of the four elements: fire, earth, air or water.) But it’s not the only fire sign.  Sagittarius, the sign of Kislev, is also a fire sign.  So is Leo. But Aries is the sign ruled by a planet, Mars,  that is itself identified with fire: the Rokeach tells[vi] us in his Commentary on Sefer Yetzira that Mars is   Dovid Hemelech and the spirit of the Moshiach.  The fire of Mars is the fire of King David’s devotion to Hashem and the fire of the spirit of Moshiach.

But what does the descent of the Divine fire that consumed the flesh on the altar have to do with a fiery planet or a  fiery zodiacal  sign?  

There are two other fire signs:  Sagittarius and Leo, but the planet that activates the fire of Sagittarius,  Jupiter, is moderate by nature, and, besides that, Sagittarius moves directly into the cold and dark of winter which begins with the sign of Capricorn, ruled by the coldest of the planets, Saturn.

Leo is a summer sign that is ruled by the Sun, which is moderately and generally benignly hot.  The heat and radiance of the Sun is the vitality of created being which expresses itself with the gentleness that brings forth grains, fruits and flowers. Not Mars.  Mars is the  heat of redemption and revelation, a fire that heats the spirit, not the flesh:  the sword of David and the passion of his Psalms.  It doesn’t nourish:  it transfigures.  The Sun brings forth new life from the ground, Ma’adim bestows new Light from above with a fire that burns through the boundaries that keep men in darkness and separate this world from the worlds above. 

The sign of Sagittarius, which correlates with the month of Kislev, and is a fire sign, is ruled by Jupiter . Rokeach identifies Jupiter  with Aharon Hakohen. That would seem to make Sagittarius  the perfect time to set up the Mishkan and for the Shekhinah to descend as a fire from above onto the altar.  But the chanukas habayis that would later happen in Keslev would be initiated from below by the Kohanim.  The Kohen’s task is to reconcile Bnei Yisrael with Hashem and, in that way, help them return to Him.  But the chanukas habayis of Moshe--the construction of the Mishkan--was initiated from above, and denotes the moment of G-d descending to dwell among Bnei Yisrael.   The chanukas habayis of the Maccabiim was a moment of teshuvah.  The chanukas habayis of Moshe was a moment of geula.  That’s why it had to happen in the sign of Aries (Nissan) under the planet of Ma’adim, the planetary analogue to the Moshiach and to Dovid Hamelech and the month of geula.

Hashem ordained at the very dawn of creation, indeed, even  before: as part of his plan of creation, that the spring sign of Aries would rule the time when the Divine Fire of His Transcendent Being would break through the barriers that separate Heaven and earth and his Shekhinah would dwell among us.  While the gentle heat of the Sun’s fire banishes the cold and darkness of winter,  the fire of Mars would burn through the barriers that separate men from the world above and redeem them from the darkness of their hearts.

The Rokeach also gives us another reason why the construction of the Mishkan was delayed until Nissan:  Hashem wanted us to rejoice in the construction of the Mishkan at the same time that Avraham and Sarah rejoiced in the birth of Yitzchak.

The midrash explains that Yitzchak’s blindness goes back to the Akeidah.  Acording to Bereishis Rabbah (ס"ה) Yitzchak grew blind because he had gazed upon the Shekchinah.  According to Rashi he was blinded by the tears of angels that fell into his eyes while lying on the altar.  That, too, suggests that he was blinded by what he saw:  his eyes received something from the eyes of angels, so that his vision participated in theirs.

Yitzchak’s birth was like the construction of the Mishkan, because it created the location where, later, on the altar of the Akeida, a fire – a great vision and holy light—would descend into him as he beheld the Schekhinah, or as the   angels  opened his eyes with their tears .   Just as the avodah of the Miluim was the spiritual preparation for the descent of the  fire of the Shekhinah onto the altar, the Akedah was the spiritual preparation for the descent of the Shekhinah as a spiritual fire that would later cause Yitzchak to go blind on account of what he saw. 

In the Sefer Habahir[vii] we learn that compared to the Light above,  the Light of this world is like darkness. Perhaps that’s why Yitzchak became blind:   as he became older and withdraw from the concerns of this world, he focused his attention on the Light above, and entered the vision he received unrestrained by worldly responsibilities.  And for those who see that Light, the light below is like darkness.  He  lost the sight of his eyes because vision depends on seeing a light in the light of this world. To him, that light was darkness.

[i] זוהר תרומה ח"ב קסא, א)) דכד ברא קוב"ה עלמא אסתכל בה באורייתא וברא עלמא
[ii] פירוש הרוקח על ספר שמות מ:א
[iii]ספר חכמת הנפש, הוצאת זכרון אהרון, ירושלים דף ס"ה
[iv] פירוש הרוקח על ספר שמות מ:יח
[v] פירוש הרוקח על ספר שמות מ:יז
[vi] פירוש הרוקח על ספר יצירה, הוצאת זכרון אהרון, ירושלים,  דף נא
[vii] ראה פירוש אור הבהיר על ספר הבהיר פרק א'