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The Tabernacle and the Temple, Mystically Speaking
By Avi Lazerson
After the Jewish people came out of Egypt and wandered in the desert for forty years, G-d commanded them to build a dwelling place for the Divine Presence. This building was a temporary structure that was dismantled and re-assembled at each of the many camps while the Jews tarried in the desert. Its construction consisted of wooden walls with a ceiling over the Holy of Holies made of various animal skins. The flooring was the ground on which it resided. The Tabernacle (or Mishkan, in Hebrew) lasted close to a thousand years, from the time of leaving Egypt, through the time of Joshua's conquering the land, and the various prophets until the time of King Solomon, who built the first Temple.
The Temple, both the first and second were made of stone. It did not include any animal products, i.e. skins, or wood, save for the roof support which was concealed by plaster. In fact, it was forbidden to build the Temple with wood, these concealed heavy wooden beams which were necessary for the support of the roof were the only wood used in the Temple.
Although it is common to say that the requirements of construction were simply a matter of convenience, it would be simplistic of us to believe that this is the only reason. We know that besides the simple meanings and explanations of everything that appears in the Torah, there are deeper meanings and explanations. Also in the case of the construction of the Tabernacle and the Temple, deeper meanings are known.
According to our mystical traditions, we know that the world is divided into four levels: Inanimate, plant, animal and man. The level of inanimate is considered to be the lowest, for it neither moves nor grows. The next level above this is plant, while plant life does grow it also possess limited movement. Animal life is even loftier, besides growth, it has almost unlimited movement and a limited ability to communicate. Man, being the crown of creation, has both growth and unlimited movement, plus the ability to communicate sophisticated ideas.
Although the rock is considered to be the lowest level and man the highest level, still we must realize that there are aspects in the lower level that the higher levels do not possess. We see also that in addition to the above mentioned aspects that the lower level "feeds" into the higher. The inanimate requires no support from the higher levels, yet it gives freely from itself to the higher levels. Plant life dissolves the rock and assimilates it into itself transforming it into plant. The plant also serves the level above it which can not exist from rock, by becoming food for the animal level. In this manner, even the rock which has been utilized by becoming plant is digested by the animal and assimilated in its body. Man, who can not eat all plants, is able to eat these animals thereby assimilating in his body all of the lower levels.
The mystics relate this to the different expressions in the Torah, sometimes the Torah writes "heavens and earth" and other times it reverses the order, "earth and heavens." Now we know that nothing is ever with out a reason in the Torah, after all the Torah is the divine wisdom of G-d as revealed to man on earth. What is the reason that the heaven sometimes precedes the earth and other times it follows it?
The reason is this: When a person creates something, prior to its physical creation, it must be preceded by thought and consideration. As an example, when a man desires to build a house he must first have the desire to build it. After this initial desire, he must think about the house in its plans and features. Next he must hire architects, engineers, who will make plans and contractors who will take these plans and build the house. After the house is constructed he will then move in.
Before actual construction, the man must get various permits from the various city authorities to permit him to build the house. He must show them plans and they must be approved. As the house is being constructed land must be moved and dug, various elements such as foundations, and piping lines must be laid even before the actual building can transpire. Finally the building is built and the inside decorated to the man's taste. At the end, the man will finally move in to the house.
As we analyze these steps, we see that the desired goal of the man was only realized in the last step. Although this last step - the completion of the house, was actually the first desire, it was the last to materialize. In order to reach this goal, the man had to reverse everything and consider what was needed to build the house. In terms of thought, the plans and permits were the first consideration, followed by the hiring of the contractors and the subsequent building; the decoration of the house was left for the end.
The same is true about the heavens and the earth. In terms of creation, the heavens including the upper worlds, were created first. In actual construction, the earth was created last. But if we think in terms of the desired product, the earth with its inhabitants were first in thought, only afterwards the necessity of creating the upper worlds, the heavens became relevant.
The Tabernacle was built with the order of the world in mind. The highest was on top and the lowest on the bottom. The animal skins were the coverings of the roof; the wood served as the walls, while the inanimate stone served as the floor. The Temple, however, was built with a different concept in mind - that of the future revelation in which that aspect of G-dliness that abounds through out the world will reveal itself to man and man will perceive with his eyes the glory of G-d through out all of creation. The inanimate will reveal through itself the powers of G-d.
Now we only perceive the inanimate rock as something to step upon. And so it is, that rock has that aspect of complete nullification to the desires of G-d. It gives and never takes; unlike those levels above it that take and give; rock never takes. G-d also never takes, He only gives.
Soon the Third Temple will be re-built on Mount Moriah, in the heart of Jerusalem by the righteous Messiah. This Temple will never be destroyed, but rather, together with all the advances in modern technology will reveal the greatness of G-d to all mankind and begin a new era of peace and brotherhood.
from the Febuary 2001 Edition Jewish Magazine