22.1. Moses’ Temple: The General Structure

Moses’ Temple is a “Mount Sinai in miniature.” When Moses ascends Mount Sinai, he enters a cloud – the mist in which God is concealed. This same cloud will later hover over and cover the Tabernacle, the Tent of the Pact (Num. 9:15).

Just as the Jewish nation stood at Mount Sinai to receive Divine revelation, the purpose of Moses’ Temple is to prolong and perpetuate that revelation, so that the people can continue hearing the Divine word.

Portion Terumah describes the Tabernacle as follows. The entrance to the Tabernacle was from the east. The ark, with two cherubim on its cover, stood near the opposite, western wall, in the Holy of Holies, hemmed off by a curtain. The actual source of revelation was the empty space between the cherubim (the transcendental, Almighty God speaks to the world as if “from out of the void”). On the opposite side of the curtain were the table (which stood on the north, to the right of the entrance) and, facing the table, the menorah (on the south, to the left of the entrance). Facing the Tabernacle just described, but outside of it, in the courtyard (“enclosure,” 27:9) stood the altar of burnt offering.

Thus, the revelation, emanating from the Holy of Holies, is further expressed in two ways: through the table and its “bread of display,” i.e., sustenance, representing economic success and abundance, and through the menorah, i.e., which represents illumination and wisdom. Table and lamp are the basic foundations of everyday life. Virtually everything that affects life and the quality of life comes down to these two things: economics and enlightenment (the latter includes both Jewish wisdom and worldly wisdom), as represented by the table and the lampstand that stood prominently in the Temple.

That said, the source of Divine revelation remains ever behind the curtain. Revelation, which is not directly visible in our world, is manifested in two ways: through enlightenment – wisdom – and through a successful material life. Only by combining these two paths can a person maintain his balance in striving to come close to God.

At the entrance to the Temple, in the courtyard, stands the altar, the symbol of human desire to approach God. The concept of korban, sacrifice, in the Torah derives from the root K-R-Bkarev, “to draw near.”[1] Unless a person takes his own first step in the direction of the table and the lampstand, he cannot hope to properly understand the level of either of those.

[1] A detailed examination of this topic will follow in our Bible Dynamics commentary to the book of Leviticus.


Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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