22.6. The Tabernacle’s Covering (26:1-14)
The Cover’s Inner Layer:
(1) As for the tabernacle, make it of ten strips of cloth; make these of fine twisted linen, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, with a design of cherubim worked into them.
(2) The length of each cloth shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each cloth shall be four cubits, all the cloths to have the same measurements.
(3) Five of the cloths shall be joined to one another, and the other five cloths shall be joined to one another.
(4) Make loops of blue wool on the edge of the outermost cloth of the one set; and do likewise on the edge of the outermost cloth of the other set:
(5) make fifty loops on the one cloth, and fifty loops on the edge of the end cloth of the other set, the loops to be opposite one another.
The Cover’s Middle Layer:
(6) And make fifty gold clasps, and couple the cloths to one another with the clasps, so that the tabernacle becomes one whole.
(7) You shall then make cloths of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle; make the cloths eleven in number.
(8) The length of each cloth shall be thirty cubits, and the width of each cloth shall be four cubits, the eleven cloths to have the same measurements.
(9) Join five of the cloths by themselves, and the other six cloths by themselves; and fold over the sixth cloth at the front of the tent.
(10) Make fifty loops on the edge of the outermost cloth of the one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the cloth of the other set.
(11) Make fifty copper clasps, and fit the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together so that it becomes one whole.
(12) As for the overlapping excess of the cloths of the tent, the extra half-cloth shall overlap the back of the tabernacle,
(13) while the extra cubit at either end of each length of tent cloth shall hang down to the bottom of the two sides of the Tabernacle and cover it.
The Cover’s Outer Layer:
(14) And make for the tent a covering of tanned ram skins, and a covering of dolphin skins above.
(1) As for the tabernacle: Continuing its description of the Tabernacle’s structure, the Torah proceeds to its outer parts: the tent and the curtain.
Most typically, the description of a building begins with its external structure, and only then moves on to the objects that fill it. The description of the Sanctuary, however, begins with the Tabernacle vessels, and the externals then follow. The very essence of the Tabernacle is hidden inside it; the externals exist only for the realization of the internals.
Make it of ten strips of cloth; make these of fine twisted linen, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns: Each thread of the cloth was woven from four threads, one of linen and three woolen. As previously noted, the usual prohibition of combining wool and linen does not apply to the Temple.
With a design of cherubim: Cherubim exist on the boundary between worlds – in this case, between manifest Divinity and hidden Divinity. The coverings of the walls of the Temple are therefore embroidered with images of cherubim.
The essence of the Temple is neither prayer nor sacrifice per se, but an opportunity for humans to experience a personal encounter with God. Cherubim mark the boundary at which this encounter takes place.
The Inner, Middle, and Outer Covers: Thus, the Tabernacle has three layers of coverage.
- The inner layer of coverings is a thin fabric woven of four different threads, with an elaborate pattern and images of cherubim, and connected with gold hooks.
- The middle layer is made of a dense woolen fabric, and is four cubits wider than the inside cover. It hangs along the edges of the tent, its parts connected by copper hooks.
- The outer layer of the cover is stitched from lambskin, and then overlaid with tachash skins, and these cover the entire Tabernacle. Tradition informs us that the tachash skins were multi-colored, imparting to the Tabernacle its striking outer beauty.
From inside the Tabernacle one sees walls made of planks. A thin, patterned veil covers the ceiling, whose golden button-hooks shine, reflecting the light of the menorah, and on top of that layer goat hair coverings set it off from the outside world. Above those is a layer of lambskin that affords protection from rain and wind. All this gives an impression of skin, flesh, and bones. The temple is like a body that has its vital organs within: the ark, the table, and the menorah.