20th June 20:00
Sidrat Terumah (history affinity image order sense)
THE TANACH STUDY CENTER [http://www.tanach.org]
In Memory of Rabbi Abraham Leibtag
Shiurim in Chumash & Navi by Menachem Leibtag
Had it not been for chet ha-egel [the sin of the Golden
Calf], would Bnei Yisrael have needed a mishkan?
Many claim that the answer to this 'philosophical'
question lies in the famous 'exegetical' controversy between
Rashi and Ramban concerning when the commandment to build the
mishkan was first given, before or after the sin of the golden
In this week's shiur, as we study this controversy and
its ramifications, we will show how the answer to this
question is not so simple. While doing so, we will also try
to make some sense out of the thorny issue of 'ein mukdam u-
INTRODUCTION - FOUR UNITS
To understand the source of this controversy between
Rashi and Ramban, we first divide the last half of Sefer Shmot
into four distinct units. In last week's shiur, we defined
and discussed the first of these four units - chapters 19-24,
the unit we refer to as Ma'amad Har Sinai.
Chapters 25-31 [i.e. parshiot Teruma, Tetzaveh, and the
first half of Ki Tisa] also form a distinct unit, as this
section includes a set of laws whose sole topic is God's
commandment to build the mishkan.
Similarly, Chapters 32-34 [the 2nd half of Parshat Ki
Tisa] also form a distinct unit, as they contain a narrative
that describes the incident of chet ha-egel.
Lastly, chapters 35-40 [parshiot Vayakhel/Pekudei] form
the final unit in Sefer Shmot, as they describe the mishkan's
The following table reviews these four units:
CHAPTERS TOPIC (PARSHA)
======== ===== ========
(A) 19-24 MA'AMAD HAR SINAI (YITRO/MISHPATIM)
[the FIRST LUCHOT]
(B) 25-31 COMMANDMENT TO BUILD - (TERUMAH/TEZAVEH)
(C) 32-34 CHET HA'EGEL (2nd half of KI-TISA)
[the SECOND LUCHOT]
(D) 35-40 BUILDING THE MISHKAN (VA'YAKHEL/PEKUDEI)
The above table can help us better understand the basic
controversy between Rashi and Ramban. While Ramban keeps
Chumash 'in order' [A-B-C-D], Rashi claims that God ordered
the mishkan's construction [unit 'B'] only after the events of
chet ha-egel [unit 'C'], and hence the order would be A-C-B-D.
[See Rashi on 31:18.]
At first glance, Ramban's opinion appears most logical.
To understand and appreciate Rashi's opinion, we must first
explain more fully the basis of Ramban's approach.
THE FIRST FORTY DAYS - FOR WHAT?
Recall that at the conclusion of Parshat Mishpatim [the
end of Unit A], Moshe ascended Har Sinai to receive the
"luchot, torah, & mitzva" (see 24:12). As we know, the luchot
are the tablets (upon which God inscribed the Ten
Commandments). It is unclear, however, to what the words
torah & mitzva refer. [Note how many different opinions are
found among the commentators on 24:12!]
However, when we study the above chart, it may provide a
simple answer to this question. If we simply follow the
simple order of narrative in Chumash, then the torah & mitzva
mentioned in 24:12 must be the mitzvot that follow, i.e. -
In other words, 24:12-18 tells us that Moshe ascends Har
Sinai to receive the torah & mitzva, and then 25:1 continues
by explaining what God told Moshe. Those commandments
continue until the end of chapter 31.
[For those of you familiar with computers, this is similar
to the concept of 'WYSIWYG' - What You See Is What You Get.
What the Torah records when Moshe goes up - is exactly what
Moshe received at that time.]
Furthermore, Moshe ascends Har Sinai first and foremost
to receive the luchot (see 24:12) - the symbol of the covenant
at Har Sinai (see 19:5, 24:7). Considering that these luchot
are to be housed in the aron, then it is only logical that the
torah & mitzva refer to the laws of the mishkan.
Finally, considering that God informs Moshe that once the
mishkan is assembled he will continue convey His mitzvot from
above the 'kaporet' (see 25:21-22), it stands to reason that
the laws of the mishkan are not only the first - but also the
only mitzvot transmitted to Moshe during those forty days.
Once the mishkan is built, the remaining mitzvot can be
transmitted to Moshe via the kaporet!
[In fact, note that once the mishkan is assembled (see
Shmot chapter 40), immediately afterward God transmits an
entire set of mitzvot to Moshe from the 'kaporet in the ohel
mo'ed - better known as Sefer Vayikra! (See 1:1.)]
Despite the simplicity of this approach, not a single
commentator advances it, for two very good reasons:
* First of all, it would not require forty days for God to
teach Moshe just the laws of the mishkan. There must have
been something else as well.
* Many other sources later in Chumash imply that Moshe
Rabeinu learned many other mitzvot on Har Sinai. See, for
example, Parshat Behar (see Vayikra 25:1) and the mitzvot
in Sefer Devarim (see 5:1-28 and 6:1).
For these reasons, the commentators must explain why
specifically the laws of the mishkan are recorded at this
point in Sefer Shmot, even though many other mitzvot were also
given to Moshe during those forty days.
Ramban (see 25:1) offers a very comprehensive and
emphatic 'pro-mishkan' approach. Drafting both textual and
conceptual arguments, Ramban claims that the mishkan serves as
a vehicle to perpetuate the experience of Ma'amad Har Sinai;
it is therefore the first mitzva that Moshe receives when he
ascends Har Sinai. Even though Moshe received other mitzvot
at that time as well (see Ramban on 24:12), Sefer Shmot
focuses specifically on the mishkan because it reflects the
unique level that Bnei Yisrael attained when they accepted
God's covenant at Har Sinai.
Furthermore, at the focal point of the mishkan lies the
aron, which contains the luchot - the symbol of that covenant
at Har Sinai. [Hence the first mitzva is to build the aron.]
To summarize Ramban's approach, we will quote a few lines
from his commentary [though it is highly recommended that you
read the entire Ramban inside]:
"After God had given the Ten Commandments directly to
Yisrael and instructed them with a sampling of the mitzvot
(i.e. Parshat Mishpatim)... and Bnei Yisrael accepted these
laws and entered a covenant (24:1-11)... behold they became
His nation and He became their God, as was originally
stipulated [at brit mila and Har Sinai]... Now they are
worthy to have a house - His dwelling - in their midst
dedicated to His Name, and there He will speak with Moshe
and command Bnei Yisrael... Now the 'secret' ('sod') of the
mishkan is that God's glory ('kavod') which dwelled on Har
Sinai will now dwell [instead] on the mishkan 'be-nistar'
[in a more hidden manner, in contrast to Har Sinai]..." (see
Despite the beauty and simplicity of Ramban's approach,
Rashi claims exactly the opposite (see 31:18): that the
commandment to build the mishkan came not only after, but
actually because of, chet ha-egel. In other words, Rashi
posits that the parshiot are not presented according to their
chronological order. Rashi goes even further, claiming that
during the first forty days Moshe received all the mitzvot of
the Torah except the laws of the mishkan!
At first glance, such an interpretation seems untenable.
Why should the Torah record at this point specifically the
mitzvot that Moshe did not receive at this time, while
omitting all the mitzvot which he did receive at this time?
What could possibly have led Rashi to this conclusion?
To answer this question, we must first explain the
exegetical principle of 'ein mukdam u-me'uchar ba-Torah'
[literally: there is no order in the sequence of parshiot in
the Torah]. Despite the common misunderstanding to the
contrary, this principle does not imply that Chumash
progresses in random sequence. Rather, it simply means that
the arrangement in which Chumash records its parshiot does not
necessarily reflect their chronological order.
[Most commentators, and especially many of the Midrashim
quoted by Rashi, employ this approach. Ramban, however,
consistently disagrees with this assumption, arguing that
Chumash does follow in chronological order. Unless a
certain technical detail 'forces' him to say otherwise, he
events as they took place.]
The principle of ein mukdam u-me'uchar implies that when
Moshe wrote down the Torah in its final form in the fortieth
year (see Devarim 31:25-26), its parshiot were organized based
on thematic considerations, and hence not necessarily
according to the chronological order of when they were first
given. By doing so, the Torah conveys its message not only by
the content of each parshia, but also by intentionally
juxtaposing certain parshiot next to one another.
[See Chizkuni on Shmot 34:32 for an important insight
regarding this explanation.]
Rashi, following this approach, assumes that Chumash (at
times) may prefer a conceptual sequence over a chronological
one. Therefore, Rashi will often explain that a certain
parshia actually took place earlier or later when the
progression of theme implies as such.
With this background, we can better understand Rashi's
approach in our context. Employing the principle of ein
mukdam u-me'uchar, Rashi always begins with considerations of
theme and content in mind. He therefore cannot overlook the
glaring similarities between the construction of the mishkan
and chet ha-egel. It cannot be just by chance that:
* Bnei Yisrael must collectively donate their gold to build
the mishkan (compare 25:1-2, 32:2-3);
* Betzalel, Chur's grandson, is chosen to build the mishkan;
[Rashi follows the Midrash which claims that Chur was
killed because he refused to allow Bnei Yisrael to build
the egel. (See Chizkuni 31:2.)]
* The opening pasuk concerning the mishkan - "and they shall
make for Me a mikdash and I will dwell in their midst"
(25:8) - appears to rectify Bnei Yisrael's situation in
the aftermath of chet ha-egel, when Moshe must move his
tent (called the ohel mo'ed) far away - outside the camp
* Aharon must bring a par (a bull / an egel is a baby bull)
for a chatat offering during the mishkan's dedication
ceremony. [The requirement of a chatat implies the
committal of a sin; see Rashi 29:1.]
Rashi therefore explains that the commandment to build
the mishkan came after chet ha-egel (during the last forty
days), for it served as a form of atonement for that sin.
[Nevertheless, it remains unclear according to Rashi why the
Torah chose to record these parshiot out of chronological
order. We'll return to this question later in the shiur.]
LECHATCHILA or BE-DI'AVAD?
It is very tempting to consider this dispute between
Rashi and Ramban a fundamental argument regarding the reason
behind the mishkan.
Clearly, according to Ramban, the mishkan is
'lechatchila' [ideal]. In other words, even had chet ha-egel
never occurred, it still would have been God's desire that
Bnei Yisrael build a mishkan, for it serves as a physical
representation of God's presence in their midst.
How should we understand Rashi? Can we infer from his
interpretation that the mishkan is 'be-di'avad' [a
compromise]? In other words, had it not been for chet ha-
egel, would there never have been a commandment to build a
mikdash? Was the mitzva to build the mishkan simply an 'after-
thought'? Was it only in the aftermath of Bnei Yisrael's sin
that God realized the people's need for a physical
representation of His presence?
Despite the temptation of this conclusion, we must first
prove that, even according to Rashi's interpretation, one can
(and must) agree that God had originally intended that at
least some form of physical symbol be used to represent Him.
To reconcile Rashi's interpretation with Ramban's
explanation of the mishkan, we must differentiate between two
(1) MISHKAN and
Although both words describe a sanctuary dedicated to the
worship of God, for the sake of clarity, each word (in our
explanation that follows) will be given a more specific
* The mishkan is a temporary sanctuary (a Tabernacle), a
portable, tent-like structure. [Good for travel.]
* The mikdash is a permanent sanctuary (a Temple), such as
the massive stone structure built by King Solomon.
We posit that both Rashi and Ramban must agree that the
concept of a Sanctuary, a symbol of God's Shchina (the divine
presence) dwelling with Bnei Yisrael, is lechatchila and in
fact comprises a fundamental theme throughout the entire
Tanach. To prove this, we must return to some basic concepts
previously discussed in our shiurim on Sefer Breishit.
Recall that we first encountered the theme of mikdash
when Avraham Avinu builds a mizbeiach in Bet-El and "calls out
in God's Name" (see 12:8 & 13:4). Later, at this same site,
Yaakov Avinu awakes from his dream and exclaims:
"Alas, this is the site for a Bet Elokim, for it is the gate
to the heavens" (Br.28:17).
Yaakov then erects a 'matzeva' (monument) and vows that
upon his return to Canaan he will establish the site of his
matzeva as a Bet-Elokim - a House for God. [See Breishit 28:17-
Thus, the very concept of a Bet-Elokim clearly preceded
the golden calf.
Furthermore, even in 'shirat ha-yam', the song that Bnei
Yisrael sung after they crossed the Red Sea, we already find
an allusion the establishment of a mikdash immediately upon
their arrival in the land:
"Tevieimo ve-titaeimo be-har nachalatcha, machon le-
shivtecha... - mikdash, Hashem konanu yadecha..."
(See Shmot 15:17, and its context!)
Finally, in Parshat Mishpatim we find conclusive proof
that the basic concept of a Bet-Elokim is totally unrelated to
the events of chet ha-egel. Recall that even according to
Rashi, the laws recorded in Parshat Mishpatim were certainly
given before chet ha-egel. [See Rashi on 31:18, where he
explains that these laws were given to Moshe Rabeinu during
his first forty days on Har Sinai.]
Recall as well that within that set of of laws we find
the mitzva of 'aliya la-regel' - to 'visit God' three times a
"Three times a year you shall celebrate for Me... Keep chag
ha-matzot... and do not visit me empty-handed... Three times
a year all your males shall appear before me... " (23:14-
First of all, the very existence of a mitzva to 'be seen
by God' implies that there most be some type of sanctuary that
would represent Him! Hence, without some sort of a mikdash,
this mitzva of aliya la-regel could not be fulfilled.
However, the next pasuk provides conclusive proof that
this sanctuary corresponds to the concept of a Bet-Elokim:
"Your first fruits must be brought to bet Hashem Elokecha -
the house of Hashem your God..." (23:19).
This commandment to bring the 'bikurim' to the Bet Elokim
clearly implies that there would have to be some sort of
'sanctuary' that will serve as God's House.
Hence, even Rashi must agree that there would have been a
need for a Bet-Elokim even had Bnei Yisrael not sinned at chet
Furthermore, there is no reason why Rashi would have to
argue with Ramban's explanation that the primary function of
the mikdash was to perpetuate Bnei Yisrael's experience at Har
Instead, we posit that the dispute between Rashi and
Ramban stems from a less fundamental issue - concerning the
need to construct a temporary sanctuary before Bnei Yisrael
entered the Land of Israel.
According to Rashi's interpretation, we can assume that
God's original intention was for Bnei Yisrael to build a
mikdash only after they conquered the Land of Israel.
However, because of their sin, conquest of the Land would now
be delayed. Therefore, God ordered them to build a temporary
mikdash [= mishkan] while they remained in the desert.
Ramban would argue that even had Bnei Yisrael not sinned,
it would still have been necessary for them to build a
temporary mikdash before they embarked on that journey.
Let's attempt to explain why.
THE WAY IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN
Rashi's position may be based upon God's original plan
that Bnei Yisrael would conquer the land through supernatural,
divine intervention (see 23:20-28). Assisted by God's
miracles, Bnei Yisrael would have needed only a very short
time to complete at least the first wave of conquest. Had
that actually occurred, there would have been no need to build
a temporary mishkan, for within a very short time it would
have been possible to build a permanent mikdash instead.
However, in the aftermath of chet ha-egel, the entire
situation changes. As God had removed His Shchina, Bnei
Yisrael must first bring the Shchina back to the camp before
they can conquer the Land. Hence, according to Rashi, the
actual process of building the mishkan could be considered a
form of 'spiritual rehabilitation'. Furthermore, the mishkan
would now provide Aharon and Bnei Yisrael with the opportunity
to offer korbanot and thus achieve atonement for their sin.
One could also suggest that due to chet ha-egel and the
'lower level' of the 'mal'ach' that will lead them into the
land (see Shmot 33:1-5 and shiur on 13 midot), it may now take
much longer for Bnei Yisrael to complete the conquest.
Therefore, a temporary mikdash [= mishkan] is required, until
a more permanent mikdash can be built.
A CONCEPTUAL JUXTAPOSITION
According to this interpretation, we can now suggest
(according to Rashi) a beautiful reason for why the Torah
places the commandment to build the mishkan out of
Even though the mitzva to build the 'temporary' mishkan
should have been recorded after the story of chet ha-egel, the
Torah intentionally records it earlier - immediately after
Ma'amad Har Sinai - to emphasize its thematic connection to
that event! In other words, Rashi, like Ramban, can also
understand that the primary function of the mikdash was to
perpetuate Ma'amad Har Sinai. In fact, had Bnei Yisrael not
sinned, the laws of the 'permanent' mikdash may have been
recorded at this spot in Chumash. However, now that a mishkan
was needed (due to the events of chet ha-egel), the laws of
this temporary mikdash are recorded at this point in Chumash,
to emphasize the very same thematic connection that Ramban
describes in great detail!
Now that Rashi makes so much sense, why wouldn't Ramban
agree? To answer this question, we must return to our
discussion of the differing approaches to 'mukdam u-me'uchar'.
Ramban prefers his principle that Chumash follows
chronological order. Despite the similarities between the
mishkan and the story of chet ha-egel (as listed above), they
are not convincing enough to warrant, in Ramban's view, a
distortion of the order of these parshiot. Therefore, Ramban
maintains that even had it not been for chet ha-egel, there
still would have been a need for a temporary mishkan.
In fact, one could suggest a very simple reason for the
immediate need of a temporary sanctuary. As we explained
earlier, Bnei Yisrael must still receive many more mitzvot
from God. A mishkan - with the aron and keruvim at its center
- is therefore necessary as the medium through which God can
convey the remaining mitzvot to Moshe. Furthermore, once the
Shchina descended upon Har Sinai, some sort of vehicle is
necessary to 'carry it' with them as they travel from Har
Sinai towards Eretz Canaan.
[Accordingly, Ramban explains that most of all the mitzvot
recorded in Sefer Vayikra and Sefer Bamidbar were actually
given from the ohel mo'ed (mishkan). See Ramban Vayikra 1:1
& 7:38. In regard to Sefer Devarim, see Ramban on 24:1 &
To summarize, the dispute between Rashi and Ramban stems
from their different exegetical approaches and pertains only
to why a temporary mishkan was necessary. However, both would
agree that a permanent mikdash would have been necessary even
had Bnei Yisrael not sinned at chet ha-egel.
In our shiur on Parshat Tetzaveh, we will ****yze the
internal structure of this unit of chapters 25->31 in order to
uncover additional parallels between the mishkan and the
events of Ma'amad Har Sinai. Till then,
FOR FURTHER IYUN:
A. In the shiur we argue that even according to Rashi, the
concept of a required mikdash for serving Hashem existed even
prior to the worship of the golden calf. Along similar lines,
Rav David Pardo, in his supra-commentary on Rashi entitled,
"Maskil le-David", writes that even in Rashi's view, the
general command to build a mishkan was transmitted to Moshe
during his first forty days atop the mountain. Only the
details of the construction, as presented in parshiyot Teruma
& Tetzaveh (and the beginning of Ki Tisa), were transmitted
later. Rav Pardo proves this from the repeated reference in
parshat Teruma to Hashem's having shown Moshe the appearance
of the mishkan "on the mountain" (25:40; 26:30; 27:8). In the
final two of these three references, Hashem employs the past
tense ("you have been shown"), suggesting that Moshe viewed
the image the mishkan before receiving these detailed
instructions. Apparently, as Rav Pardo argues, Moshe learned
of the mishkan - albeit only the generalities - during his
first forty days on the mountain, even before the calf. Thus,
Rashi clearly did not view the mishkan as necessary only in
response to the sin of the egel ha-zahav.
B. RAMBAN / RASHI - earlier sources
The argument as to whether Hashem ordered the
construction of the mishkan before or after the sin of the
golden calf predates Rashi and the Ramban; conflicting views
appear already in the Midrashim. Rashi's view, that the
parshiyot appear out of order, is the position of the Midrash
Tanchuma (Teruma 8, Pekudei 6), Yerushalmi (Shkalim 1:1) and
Midrash Hagadol to Shmot 25:17. The Ramban's opinion is found
in Seder Eliyahu Rabba 17, which states ********ly that Hashem
ordered the construction of the mishkan after Bnei Yisrael
declared 'na'aseh ve-nishma'. Ibn Ezra (25:1) adopts the
Ramban's approach, as do the Abarbanel (31:18) and the Netziv
(29:20). Despite his general affinity for the Ramban's
commentary, on this issue Rabbenu Bechayei adopts Rashi's
C. Mikdash Before Chet Ha-egel: Midrashic Sources
Several Midrashic passages support our contention that a
mikdash would have been necessary even had it not been for the
golden calf. Bemidbar Rabba 12:12 compares the world before
the mishkan to a chair with two legs, which cannot stand; the
construction of the mishkan added the third leg, so-to-speak,
which enabled the world to stand independently. However one
understands the image of the chair, it clearly points to the
indispensability of the mishkan - regardless of chet ha-egel.
Similarly, Bemidbar Rabba 13:6 describes that from the time of
creation, Hashem wished ('kivyachol') to reside on earth.
When the mishkan was consecrated, Hashem announced that on
that day the world was created. Once again, we see that the
construction of the mishkan marked a critical stage in the
history of the world and was necessary since the dawn of
creation. In the same vein, Bemidbar Rabba 13 writes that
when Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, Hashem wished to "bring them
into His quarters", and thus instructed them to build the
mishkan. This Midrash makes no mention of the incident of the
golden calf as necessitating a mikdash. A similar passage
appears in the Tanchuma Yashan - Bechukotai 65.
We suggested in the shiur that according to Rashi, the
Torah presents Parshat Teruma immediately following Matan
Torah - despite its having occurred later, after the egel - to
emphasize the thematic relationship between the mishkan and
Matan Torah. Rabbenu Bechayei (25:6), however, explains that
the Torah rearranged the sequence in order to demonstrate how
Hashem is "makdim trufa le-maka" (recall that, as cited
earlier, Rav Kasher reads this explanation into the Midrash
Lekach Tov). Rav Zalman Sorotzkin (Oznayim La-Torah) mentions
this explanation without quoting Rabbenu Bechayei. A
different answer was suggested by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe
("Be'urim Le-perush Rashi al Ha-Torah" - Shmot 31:18). The
Torah specifically wanted to juxtapose the tzivuy ha-mishkan
with the end of Parshat Mishpatim - the formal establishment
of the 'brit' between Bnei Yisrael and Hashem. As the
residence of the Shchina in the mishkan marked the complete
fulfillment of that brit, it is only fitting that the parsha
of the mishkan immediately follows that of the covenant.
(This explanation, too, seems to point to the fact that the
mishkan is lechatchila even according to Rashi.)
The Seforno takes a particularly extreme approach to the
concept of the mishkan. Already in his comments to 19:6, he
notes that as a result of the egel, Bnei Yisrael forfeited
"all the goodness of the future" promised to them before Matan
Torah. As we will see in his comments elsewhere, this refers
to God's direct revelation, which was supplanted by the
mishkan. In his commentary to the final psukim of Parshat
Yitro (20:20-22), the Seforno interprets these psukim as
informing Bnei Yisrael that they have no need to construct a
sanctuary to God. Matan Torah demonstrated that Hashem would
descend, as it were, and reside among them even without any
physical mediums. Commenting on 25:9, Seforno writes that
after the incident of the golden calf Bnei Yisrael were
required to construct a sanctuary; the direct communication
experienced at Har Sinai could no longer be maintained.
Seforno expresses his position even clearer in 31:18, where he
describes more fully Bnei Yisrael's spiritual descent as a
result of the golden calf, as a result of which they did not
achieve the divine plan initially intended at Matan Torah. In
this passage, he alludes to an interesting interpretation of
the promise in 19:6 that Bnei Yisrael would be a 'mamlechet
kohanim' (a kingdom of priests): that they would have no need
for kohanim to serve as intermediaries. God had originally
intended for all of Bnei Yisrael to serve God directly as
kohanim. (Curiously, however, this is not how the Seforno
explains the term in his commentary to 19:6 - "ve-tzarich
iyun".) He develops this idea even further in Vayikra 11:2.
There he explains that in response to the golden calf, Hashem
decreed that He would remove His Shchina entirely from Bnei
Yisrael. Moshe's intervention succeeded in restoring a very
limited measure of 'hashra'at ha-Shchina', by which God would
reside among Bnei Yisrael only through the structure of the
mishkan. (In this passage, Seforno spells out more clearly
what he meant by "the goodness of the future" of which he
spoke in his comments to Shmot 19:6 - the direct presence of
the Shchina, without the need for a physical representation.)
Later in Sefer Vayikra, in his commentary to the brachot of
Parshat Bechukotai (26:11-12), Seforno describes the ideal
condition of God's constant presence among Benei Yisrael
without it being confined to any specific location and without
requiring any specific actions on Benei Yisrael's part. In
direct contradistinction to the Ramban, Seforno there reads
the pasuk in Truma, "Ve-asu li mikdash ve-shachanti betocham",
as a punishment, confining the presence of the Shchina to the
mishkan. Seforno's most elaborate development of this notion
appears in his treatise "Ma'amar Kavanot ha-Torah" (published
as a separate volume by Rav Yehuda Kuperman in 5754; the
relevant material for our topic is found primarily in chapter
6 in Rav Kuperman's edition).
This position of the Seforno, of course, requires some
explanation in light of the proofs mentioned in the shiur to
the necessity of a mikdash even prior to the egel. In fact,
the Seforno himself identifies Yaakov's Bet Elokim (Breishit
28:17) and the mikdash in the Shirat Ha-yam (Shmot 15:17) as
the beit ha-mikdash. How could the concept of a mikdash be
discussed before chet ha-egel - if it was never to have been
The Seforno does not address this question, but in at
least two instances he alludes to what may be understood as a
moderation of his approach. Commenting on the pasuk "be-chol
ha-makom asher askir et Shmi avo eilecha" ("every place where
I will have My Name mentioned I will come to you" - Shmot
20:21), the Seforno explains, "[Every place] that I will
designate as a meeting place for My service". He then adds,
"You will not need to draw My providence to you through
mediums of silver and gold and the like, for I will come to
you and bless you". Apparently, even according to this
original plan, there would still be a place designated as a
mikdash of sorts, only Bnei Yisrael would not need to invest
effort in its lavish and intricate construction. In Ma'amar
Kavanot ha-Torah, Seforno makes a somewhat similar comment in
explaining this same pasuk: "In any place that will truly be
called a Bet Elokim, such as batei midrash and the like - I
will come to you and bless you." Here, too, he implies that
there would be a special location - or perhaps several or many
special locations - for avodat Hashem, only not what we know
as the mishkan or mikdash. However, in his commentary to
Parshat Bechukotai (Vayikra 26:12), the Seforno strongly
implies that in the ideal condition Hashem reveals Himself
anywhere, without any need for an especially designated
location - 've-tzarich iyun'.
E. RAMBAM - Review Devarim chapter 12. Note the repeated use
of the phrase "ha-makom asher yivchar Hashem" and its context.
Pay special attention to 12:5-12, noting when is the proper
time to build the mikdash. Relate this phrase to the concept
of a permanent mikdash, as discussed in the above shiur.
Considering that Sefer Devarim contains the mitzvot that God
originally gave Moshe at Har Sinai (before chet ha-egel),
explain why Sefer Devarim makes no mention of the mishkan, yet
mentions "ha-makom asher yivchar Hashem" numerous times.
Although the Rambam did not write a commentary on
Chumash, we can infer his understanding of certain psukim
based on his psak halacha in Mishneh Torah.
The opening Rambam in Hilchot Beit Ha-bechira (Sefer
Avoda) defines the source of the commandment to build a
mikdash (see 1:1). Read that Rambam (and, if you have time,
the first five halachot). What is difficult about the
Rambam's wording in 1:1? What is the source of our obligation
to build a mikdash? Why, according to the Rambam, is the
phrase "ve-asu li mikdash" (25:8) insufficient as a source for
Why does the Rambam include the criteria, 'ready to offer
upon it korbanot' and 'to celebrate there three times a year'?
Can you relate these phrases to Shmot 23:14-19 and this week's
shiur? Why does the Rambam quote the pasuk from Devarim 12:9-
11? Read those psukim carefully!