> Weekly Torah Portion > Intermediate > What's Bothering Rashi?

Make For Me a Sanctuary


Trumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19 )

by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek

Parshat Trumah details the preparations necessary for the building of the Mishkan - Israel's Sanctuary as they traveled through the desert.

There is a dispute among the Talmudic Sages and, as a consequence, among the Torah commentaries, when were the commandments for the Mishkan given to Moses. One opinion (the Ramban, for example) has it that the building of the Mishkan was commanded before the sin of the Golden Calf (as is the order of the parshiyot - Trumah comes before Ki Sisa, where the sin of the Golden Calf is mentioned).

The other opinion (Rashi, see Exodus 31:18) claims that the Mishkan laws came afterwards, and thus not in accordance with the order of the parshiyot - because as the Sages have said "ain mukdam um'uchar baTorah." There is no "early" or "later" in the Torah - which means that chronological sequence is not always adhered to in the Torah.

Rashi's view, that the laws and the conception of the Mishkan itself came after the sin of the Golden Calf, would lead to the idea that the Mishkan was offered as an atonement for that sin, and perhaps may never have been given, had the people not sinned. The necessity of having some concrete manifestation of God on earth among the people (in the form of a Sanctuary) was seen as a necessity only once they had sinned by making the Calf. This showed their need for some physical presence of the Almighty to which they could relate.

The Ramban, on the other hand, saw the creation of the Mishkan as unrelated to this sin and independent of it. The need to relate to a spiritual entity (God) is an inherent human need. This need existed long before the sin of the Golden Calf. That sin was but a distortion of this normal and acceptable human striving for the spiritual that can, in some way, be "grasped" by flesh and blood mortals.

In light of the above, let us look at a brief Rashi-comment.

Exodus 25:8

"And they shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst."



And they shall make for Me - RASHI: They shall make for My name's sake a House of Holiness.



Rashi adds but one crucial word (in the Hebrew) "for My name's sake." He changes "for Me" to "for My name's sake."

Why would you say he did this? What is bothering him?

Your Answer:



An Answer: Rashi sensed that one doesn't make a Sanctuary for God. He neither needs it, nor could He possibly reside in it. As King Solomon said when he dedicated the Temple:

"Would God truly dwell on earth? Behold the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain You, and surely not the Temple that I have built." (Kings I, 8:27)

So Rashi had to interpret the Hebrew word "li" not as "for Me" but in another way.



Rashi reinterpreted the word "li" to mean "for My name's sake." Otherwise it would make no sense.

Rashi also adds the words "a house of holiness" as a substitute for the Hebrew Mikdash (Sanctuary). This may be necessary to make explicit what the word Mikdash means here, since the pagans also had their "holy places" but their worship in these places was far from holy. They were often places of "holy" prostitution or other kinds of scatological rituals. We needn't study history to be aware that pagan acts of "holiness" can include such audacities, insanities and blasphemies as suicide bombers and wanton murderers. We need only read today's newspapers! In clear distinction from such perverse behaviors done in the name of some sick god-idea, Hashem's House was to be a place of pure holiness, where human beings elevated themselves and in the process, elevated the whole world with them.

This is the purpose of the Yom Kippur ceremonies performed in this Sanctuary. In fact, according to Rashi, the laws of the Mishkan were given the day after the first Yom Kippur.


Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek

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