V’asu li mikdash: And make for Me a sanctuary


One of the best-known verses in our parsha, Terumah, is this: “And they shall make Me a sanctuary (v’asu li mikdash) and I will dwell amongst them (v’shachanti b’tochom).” But the very next pasuk employs the word mishkan in place of mikdash: “According to all that I show you, the pattern of the mishkan and the pattern of all its vessels, and so shall you do.”

Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar (the Or HaChaim Hakadosh), addresses this change in terminology: “It appears to me that when the Torah says, v’asu li mikdash, it is referring to the general positive commandment that incorporates all times, whether [the Jewish people were in] the desert or when they entered the land [of Israel], as well as the entire period the Jewish people would dwell therein throughout the generations. [Moreover,] the Jewish people were obligated to create a mikdash, even in the diaspora, [but were prevented from so doing, since] we find that Hashem forbade all other places [outside of Israel] from the point in time of the construction of the Beit HaMikdash, as it says in the Torah: ‘For you have not yet come to the resting place or to the inheritance, which the L-rd, your G-d, is giving you.’ (Devarim 12:9)

“This, then, is why the Torah does not declare v’asu mishkan, in order that we may understand that the creation of the mishkan was a mitzvah solely at that time. [This is the reason the Torah at first] commands the general mitzvah [to construct the mikdash] followed by the specific [obligation of what was needed] to be built in the desert, which was not the place to create a building of stones.” (Or HaChaim, Shemot 25:8)

According to the Or HaChaim, the Torah first utilizes the term mikdash, and then mishkan, to teach us a crucial lesson: the mitzvah of the mikdash is obligatory at all times in Eretz Yisrael; in contrast, the mitzvah of the mishkan was time-bound, namely, its construction was a commandment to the Dor HaMidbar (Generation of the Desert) as a temporary stand-in for the yet-to-be-built Beit HaMikdash. As such, the Torah commands us, “v’asu li mikdash,” rather than “v’asu li mishkan.”

The Or HaChaim includes a citation from the Rambam that strongly supports his position: “It is a positive commandment to construct a House for G-d, prepared for sacrifices to be offered within. We [must] celebrate there three times a year, as the Torah states: ‘v’asu li mikdash,’ The sanctuary constructed by Moshe is already described in the Torah. It was only temporary, as the Torah states: ‘For you have not yet come to the resting place or to the inheritance, which the L-rd, your G-d, is giving you’.” (Hilchot Beit HaBechirah, 1:1)

According to the Rambam, the essential purpose of the Beit HaMikdash was to provide a place to offer korbanot and to “celebrate there three times a year.”

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik builds upon this idea, focusing on the intrinsic purpose of the korbanot to strengthen our connection with the Almighty: “G-d created the world to reside in it, rather than to reside in transcendence. Man could have continually experienced Him instead of trying to infer His Presence through examining nature. But in the wake of the original sin of Adam and Eve, He retreated. And they heard the voice of the L-rd G-d going in the garden to the direction of the sun, and the man and his wife hid from the Lord G-d in the midst of the trees of the garden (Gen. 3:8). These “footsteps” were those of G-d leaving the garden and departing into infinity. Had they not sinned, G-d would always have been close. As a result of Adam’s hiding and fear of communicating with God in the wake of his sin, G-d removed His Divine Presence. The purpose of the tabernacle was to restore the relationship between man and G-d.” 

May the time come soon and, in our days, when the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people is fully restored, and His Divine Presence is once again manifest to us all in the newly rebuilt Beit HaMikdash. V’chane yihi ratzon.