26.1. The Elements of the Temple That Perform Cleansing
The beginning of the Ki Tissa portion completes the description of the Tabernacle: The collection of the half-shekels for performing the census, the laver, the anointing oil and the incense, and the prohibition of constructing the Tabernacle on Shabbat. All these elements are neither a part of Moses’ Temple nor of Aaron’s. Rather, they relate to the maintenance of the Temple rendered necessary by an imperfect universe, the reality that human activity in the world is inevitably accompanied by pollution. Preliminary purification is therefore required before a person can enter the Temple.
In portions Terumah and Tetzaveh, two ideal images of the Temple – Moses’ and Aaron’s viewpoints, respectively – were outlined. Portion Ki Tissa that follows them presents the problem of the descent of the ideal Temple, and the Torah, into the lower world, which led to a crisis, and to a breakdown of the system, as expressed in the smashing of the tablets. The elements of the Temple that relate to this particular problem are therefore described at the beginning of portion Ki Tissa.
Although the crises that arise in the process of ascent cannot be avoided (see also §25.1), it is possible nonetheless to build a mechanism into the system in advance that will help to cope with the consequences of the crisis, and allow it to be more easily overcome.
Thus, in the following weekly portions, Vayakhel and Pekudei, the situation does in fact find its correction, and the Temple can be built in reality.