Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei

In this week’s Parsha, the Torah describes the building and assembling of the Mishkan.  The Torah explicitly states that the Mishkan was erected on the first day of the month of Nissan.  The Medrash comments that, in truth, the Mishkan was completed three months earlier.  Every day for those three months, it was erected and then folded up and put away.  The scoffers contended that since Moshe Rabbenu had asserted that the Divine Presence would dwell in the Mishkan that he must not be fit to create a dwelling place for Hashem since although the Mishkan was built, the Divine Presence was not there.  The Medrash concludes that Hashem specifically wanted the Mishkan to be ready for use in Nissan as this was the month that our patriarch Yitzchak was born.

The Ber Yosef (Reb Yosef Salant) finds this Medrash very puzzling.  Clearly building the Mishkan was extraordinarily difficult.  In addition to the structure, there were numerous vessels and furnishings such as the Aron, Menorah and the Shulchan that had to be made for the Mishkan to be operational.  Since work on the Mishkan began in Tishrei, in order to have completed everything 3 months prior to Rosh Chodesh Nissan meant that everything was done in only three months.  This could only have been accomplished through a miracle from Hashem.  If the Mishkan wasn’t intended to be used for three months after completion, why would Hashem perform this miracle to have it ready so far in advance as this enabled the scoffers of the generation to question Moshe?  Wouldn’t it have been better to allow the work to be done on a more natural schedule, without the miracle, resulting in the completion just before Nissan?

The Ber Yosef’s answer is based on a Medrash earlier in Parshas Vayakhel.  This Medrash explains that the purpose of the Mishkan was to serve as atonement for the Jewish people for the sin of the golden calf.  The intention in making the golden calf stemmed from a burning desire to have the Divine Presence always in the midst of the Jewish people.  When they did not see Moshe Rabbeinu return from Har Sinai, they were concerned that perhaps they would not have a conduit to bring the Divine Presence down to this world, so they made a calf to serve that purpose.  This action wasn’t the cause of their punishment as this was for the sake of Heaven.  Their error was in not waiting for the command of Hashem to tell them how to go about bringing the Divine Presence.  Even if they had been correct about Moshe’s failure to return, they should have waited for instruction rather than deciding independently what to do. To atone for this, Hashem had the Mishkan completed well in advance of its inauguration to give the Jewish people time to build up the very same desire to bring down the Divine Presence, but to demonstrate their repentance through waiting.  Hashem orchestrated the early completion to give the Jews an opportunity to atone for their sin.

We should realize that sometimes we have ideas to do something that we perceive Hashem would want, but if we haven’t heard from Hashem or His agents that this is correct we should be very cautious when proceeding.