April 13, 2024
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Parshat Tetzaveh

The final nine perakim of sefer Yechezkel (40-48) describe to the prophet the future of the Beit Mikdash and of Eretz Yisrael. To better understand the visions of the navi, we turn to the introduction of this final section—the opening of perek 40—that relates the experience that Yechezkel had undergone before receiving these visions.

“In the 25th year of our exile, at the beginning of year, on the 10th of the month, 14 years after the city was destroyed, on that day, Hashem’s hand was upon me (I received a vision) and brought me to Eretz Yisrael, and placed me on a very high mountain, near which there was (like) a structure of a city to the South.”

The navi first clarifies that—although he lived in Babylonia—Hashem’s vision brought him to the Temple Mount upon which Yechezkel received the prophecies of consolation, nevuot which extend to the final chapter. It is important to note that this vision of standing at the Temple site parallels the prophecies Yechezkel had when he received the vision of the corrupt practices that were taking place in the Beit Mikdash and the subsequent punishments that would befall the nation for their defilement of that holy place. These latter visions of the navi would seem to reflect the eventual forgiveness of Israel for those sins and the future reward they would receive.

Our haftarah—taken from the 43rd perek—focuses on the service in the future Mikdash and, keeping with the theme of the parsha itself, the specific priestly garments and ritual laws that would be followed at that time. Yet, what often goes unnoticed, is the puzzling opening of the haftarah. “ … Haged et Beit Yisrael et haBayit veyikolmu meavonoteihem umadedu et tochnit.”

Yechezkel is told by Hashem to teach Yisrael of the Beit Hamikdash so that they will be ashamed of their sins, and (they should) calculate its design. The very next pasuk then begins, “And if they are then ashamed of all they have done … ”—that the prophet should then teach them all of the details pertaining to the Beit Hamikdash.

What does God want of Israel? What is the connection between learning the laws of the Mikdash and atoning for their sins? And why would they be embarrassed after hearing the navi’s teachings regarding the future Beit Hamikdash?

Most parshiot turn to those verses that precede the haftarah itself that tell of Hashem’s spirit leading Yechezkel into the inner chambers of the Temple and there, a voice describing the sins that Yisrael and her kings had committed and promised that, in the future, they would no longer defile the Holy Mikdash. Then—the haftarah continues—when Yechezkel describes to them the “blueprints” of the future Beit Hamikdash, the nation will become embarrassed of their past sins and will return to God.

But left to our imagination is how studying the blueprints of the Temple would bring the people to be shamed and to abandon their sinful ways? HaRav Yigal Ariel turns to the comments of Rabbeinu Bachaya in parshat Vayakhel, who comments about the importance of studying the detailed measurements of the Mishkan and explains that those who succeed in delving to the depths of their meaning will succeed in refining themselves. Even clearer are the words of Rav Chayim Volozhin—in his classic work “Nefesh Hachaim”—who states that all of these measurements and dimensions were not simply meant for external engineering and architectural purposes. Rather, he says, the many details of these holy structures were meant to teach us how we too can perfect our own internal characteristics and, thereby, atone for our past misdeeds.

Indeed, Rav Yitzchak Hutner, zt”l, said it clearly. Our challenge is “bilvavi mishkan evneh—to build a dwelling place for Hashem in our own hearts.” And that is why we study all about the Mishkan and Mikdash … past and future.


Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee, and now lives in Israel.

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