וַיְהִי בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הוּקַם הַמִּשְׁכָּן (שמות מ, יז)
AND IT CAME TO PASS IN THE FIRST MONTH, IN THE SECOND YEAR, ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE MONTH, THE MISHKAN WAS ERECTED. (SHEMOS 40:17)
Two Forms of Construction
After coming out of Egypt and receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, it was time to infuse that revelation into the consciousness of the finite world.
The building of the Tabernacle- Mishkan represented the most superhuman feat- a Temple for G-d to reside within this world. After all, G-d is beyond the world, yet as Kabbalah and Chassidut teach, he chooses and had a desire to be revealed within this lower corporeal existence.
A seven-day training and initiating period for the Priests- Kohanim preceded the official erecting of the Mishkan on the 1st day of Nissan (Exodus, Chapter 29). Each day that week, the Mishkan was successfully constructed and then dismantled after the service was performed (Rashi, Vayikra 9:23). On the day of the Mishkan’s official construction, Bnei Yisrael brought the Mishkan to Moshe to erect it on his own—in accordance with the singular tense of G-d’s instruction, “And you shall raise the Mishkan” (26:30).
However, as Rashi (on Shemos 39:17) cites from the Midrash, “no human being could construct the Mishkan because of the heaviness of the planks. Moshe said before G-d, ‘How is it possible for a human being to raise it?’ G-d replied, ‘Apply your hands to it;’ Moshe appeared to be raising it, but it arose by itself.” This marked difference between the days of initiation and the day of the Mishkan’s official construction reflects the distinction drawn in Chassidic teaching between a revelation of G-dliness that is “initiated from below”—elicited through the efforts of mankind, and a G-dly influx that comes about independent of man’s efforts—“initiated from above.”
A revelation that is “initiated from below” has a particularly profound impact on its recipients, being as they have made themselves worthy and capable of experiencing it. The drawback of this Divine response, however, is that finite human efforts can correspondingly elicit only a limited degree of revelation.
A spontaneous revelation that is “initiated from above,” in contrast, utterly transcends the limited efforts of humankind and is, therefore, an incomparably greater revelation of the Divine reality.
This contrast was reflected in the Israelite's preparation of the Mishkan and its construction in the seven days of training, which, crucial as those preparations were, on their own they could not cause G-d’s presence to rest and be manifest in the Mishkan. It was necessary for them to bring the Mishkan to Moshe, the intermediary who connects Bnei Yisrael (Israelites) to G-d, for him to finally erect the Mishkan as a home for G-d.
Moshe, in turn, did not erect the Mishkan through his own efforts. He merely applied his hands to it, and G-d caused the Mishkan to rise on its own, representing the great revelation of G-d’s presence in the Mishkan that could only come about through a spontaneous “initiation from above.”
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