Vayakhel-Pikudei. Second Chances
In life we don't always get second chances. But our parsha is a situation in which we got precisely that.
Parashat Pikudei opens with an intriguing name for the Mishkan or Tabernacle. It is called “Mishkan Ha-Eidut – The Tabernacle of Testimony.”(38:20)
What is indicated by this phrase?
What is the “testimony” referred to? Here are two interpretations.
1. The Tabernacle of the Tablets
Ibn Ezra, Rashbam and Ramban all suggest that the “Eidut” refer to the two tablets of stone, designated as “Luchot Ha-Eidut” – Tablets of Testimony (25:16,21; 31:18.). This is because the tablets function as “documentary evidence of the covenant” between God and Israel (Ibn Ezra to 25:16). When Israel abrogate the covenant by dancing around a calf, Moses smashes the tablets, essentially saying that covenant has been broken.
By giving the Mishkan this name, we are saying that the central aspect of the Mishkan is in that it houses the Tablets, and functions as a living testimony to the pact between Israel and God.
It is interesting that the Tablets, more than the cloud of God (see 40:38) resting upon the sanctuary, is the central feature and the enduring witness to the covenant. Why is that?
2. Tabernacle of Forgiveness
The Tabernacle was a testimony to Israel that God forgave them for the transgression of the golden calf, for through the Temple He made His Shechina (presence) reside among them. (Rashi)
Rashi sees this title – “Tabernacle of Testimony” as a new title, particularly applicable in this historical context, AFTER the sin of the Golden Calf. Israel’s great breech of the covenant might have made the Tabernacle an impossibility. But when God welcomes the establishment of the Mishkan after the Golden Calf, it is evidence – “Testimony” - of Israel’s absolute forgiveness.
Furthermore, the mode of collection for the Tabernacle almost seems like a re-run, of the events that led to the sin of the Calf; instead, they serve as a “tikkun” or an act of repair:
With the Calf:
“Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”…This he took from them and cast in a mold, and made it into a molten calf.” (Ex. 32:2-4)
With the Mishkan:
“Everyone whose spirit moved him came, brought the donation of the Lord for the work of the Tent of Meeting … Men and women… came bringing brooches, earrings, rings, and pendants—gold objects of all kinds.” (Ex 35:21-22)
“It was called the Sanctuary of the Testimony, for it bore witness to the nations of the world that the Holy One, blessed be He, dwelt within their Sanctuary.
The Holy One, blessed be He, declared: Let gold be placed within the Sanctuary to atone for the gold with which the golden calf was fashioned.” (Tanhuma Teruma #8)
So please discuss:
We have presented two ways in which the Mishkan functions as a “testimony”, a witness or an “eidut”.
It represents the God-Israel relationship
It is a sign that Israel have been forgiven for their great sin.
1. The God-Israel relationship
Do we have a sign, today, of the God-Israel relationship?
Some suggestions … a Jewish star/Magen-david, a kippa or yarmulke, Tefillin, the Israeli Flag.
Are any of these a testimony to a God-Israel relationsip?
God forgives Israel, absolutely and totally, for the sin of the Golden Calf. Furthermore, he affords them a second chance, to bring gold a second time, this time for a positive, Godly purpose.
Have you ever given anyone a second chance like this?
Has anyone ever afforded you the opportunity to make amends in this way?
Can you imagine repairing a relationship with another person in the way that God healed the relationship with Israel?
In this light, what emotions might have been evoked when an Israelite, after the Golden Calf, gazed at the Mishkan?