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I Am A Tree

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Pekudei

Feb 28, 2014

Parshas Pikudei

I Am A Tree

Eileh pikudei hamishkan mishkan ha’eidus[1] – These are the accountings of the mishkan, the mishkan of testimony. The Torah proceeds to account for all the items that make up the mishkan.

Rav Ovadia Seforno views this accounting in another perspective. It is more than just mundane record keeping.

The Seforno quotes a posuk in Parshas Naso, “Uvisheimos tifkedu es klei mishmeres masa’am[2] – And the vessels that are to be carried by the Bnei Merari should be known by name. It is incumbent on the workers to know the name of each and every vessel.[3] He defines the word “tifkedu” as appoint with a name.

One must accord proper respect to the vessels of the mishkan. They are not to be referred to in general terms, e.g. as golden vessels, or as wooden vessels. Each vessel was to be called by its own individual name.

It was due to this show of respect that the elements that made up the mishkan were never destroyed. 

Rabi Chama, the son of Rabi Chanina, asked, “What is meant by the words “atzei shitim omdim” – the pillars of the mishkan were made of standing cedar wood. Perhaps, one might say that since they disappeared (in the time of King Shlomo), they will never return, and there is no point to look forward to their return. To this the Torah says, they are omdim, they stand forever.[4]

The Seforno continues, the pillars of the mishkan are intact. They have never fallen into the hands of the enemy.

The same did not hold true for the first Beis HaMikdash and the second Beis HaMikdash. They were totally destroyed. Their vessels were carried off by the enemy.

The construction of the first Beis HaMikdash was assisted by foreign workers from Tyre. During its time, cracks formed in the structure and repairs were needed. In the end, all fell into the hands of the enemy.

The second Beis HaMikdash was built under the auspices of the foreign Kink Coresh, and was assisted by laborers from Tzidon and Tyre.  The Levi’im were missing from its construction, as they stayed behind in Bavel. The Aron and the Luchos were not present in the Kodesh Hakadoshim.  The Shechinah did not rest its presence upon the second Beis HaMikdash. It too was destroyed.

The mishkan was mishkan ha’eidus – it was the tabernacle of testimony, the testimony of the Luchos.  It was built under Moshe’s auspices, through the hands of the Levi’im, guided by Issamar. It was built under the supervision of the tzaddikim of the generation. The Shechinah rested its presence in the Mishkan, and it is never to be destroyed.[5]


What purpose is there to assigning a name to a vessel and calling it by name?

In what way does the naming of a vessel contribute to its longevity?

Why is this quality shown specifically through the standing cedar wood of the beams?


The Baal HaTurim reveals the meaning behind some of the aspects of the beams of the Mishkan. The 48 beams parallel the 48 prophets of Israel. There were 48 watches of Kohanim and Levi’im in the Mikdash, as well.

The numerical value of the words “Hakerashim laMishkan” equals 1095. This is the same numerical value of the word “tis’ratzeh”. The word “tis’ratzeh” refers to the good will of the atonement for the sin of the golden calf.

The raw wood for the beams came from the cedar trees that Yaakov Avenu transplanted in Mitzrayim. The Kli Yakar reveals that the numerical value of the words “Yaakov Avenu nata lahem arazim biMitzrayim” equals 1095.[6]

Thus, the beams represent the holy ones of Israel, the Kohanim, the Levi’im, and the prophets.

The beams are the source of atonement for the sins of the Bnei Yisroel.

They were planted by Yaakov Avenu, specifically planted in Mitzrayim.

The gemara tells us the details of Adam HaRishon’s first twelve hours. Rabi Acha says, “In the fifth hour Adam stood erect on his feet. In the sixth hour he gave names.”[7]

The Maharal explains, these two qualities separate Adam from an animal. Of all of G-d’s creatures only Adam walks erect. All in the world was created for Adam to reach his purpose. He walks erect in the world as a king among his subjects. Only man possesses the ability to identify and give names. He is blessed with the wisdom to understand the essence and role of all.[8]


It emerges that the elements that made up the Mishkan were not chosen for mere symbolism.

The wooden beams of the Mishkan are invested with spirituality.

They are living human beings.

Rather than being arrayed sideways and stacked one on top of the other, they must be aligned side by side in an erect position. They are not to be referred to as wooden objects.

They have names.

There are two ways to view a person, as he acts and as he is. A person’s actions can be due to internal turmoil or external pressures. At times, he will act or say something when “he wasn’t himself”.

The beams of the Mishkan are invested with the true essence of the Bnei Yisroel. Thus, they are to be referred to by name. Tzadikim are compared to cedar trees – “Tzaddik katamar yifrach”.[9] They stand in majestic erectness.

Although they may have sinned, the sin doesn’t identify them. The sin of the eigel hazahav was one of giving in to external pressures. They require atonement for their action, but not for betraying their essence. That is the source of their atonement. The essence of the Bnei Yisroel is to be as Levi’im. The Levi’im played no part in the sin of the eigel hazahav.

The Bnei Yisroel are a nation of Kohanim and Nevi’im.

They are like the cedar trees that Yaakov Avenu planted. He planted them in Mitzrayim. Even in Mitzrayim, the flesh pot of the world, they stand tall, they are possessed with wisdom.

These are the ones who built the Mishkan. They put their very essence into the building of the Mishkan. They are the Adam HaRishon of the fifth and sixth hours. The world was created for them. The forces of the world are powerless to capture them or cause them harm. The vessels of their handiwork cannot be captured or destroyed. The vessels formed by their hands are invested with their qualities.

The period that followed was one of foreign infiltration. The pure nature of the Bnei Yisroel was tainted. It was tainted by their affiliation with those of Tyre and Tzidon. In the second Temple there were no Levi’im. The structures built by their hands possessed holiness, but not the holiness of eternity.

 Although it is hidden, the Mishkan stands forever.

[1] Perek 38, posuk 21

[2] Parshas Naso, perek 4, posuk 32

[3] Seforno, Parshas Naso, perek 4, posuk 49

[4] Meseches Yoma, daf 72a

[5] Seforno, Parshas Pikudei, perek 38, posuk 21

[6] Kli Yakar, Parshas Terumah, perek 26, posuk 15

[7] Meseches Sanhedrin, daf 38b

[8] Sefer Tiferes Yisroel, perek 16, Sefer Derech Chaim, perek 5, mishna 21

[9] Kli Yakar

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