The Golden Ark

The Aron was a beautiful work of art – but more importantly, it housed the 2 Luchos (tablets) on which HaShem had written the Ten Commandments.
The Aron was made out of 3 boxes, one inside the other. The biggest box was made of pure gold with a beautiful gold rim. Inside it was a smaller box of wood, and into that one fit an even smaller box of pure gold. In this way, the wooden box was covered from the inside and the outside with gold.
The 2 tablets of the Ten Commandments were kept inside the Aron together with some shattered pieces of the first 2 tablets that Moshe broke after the tragic episode of the Golden Calf.
Not only was the Aron was full of gold, but even its cover had to be very special! HaShem continued his instructions to Moshe, “Take a large chunk of gold and carve out a thick cover for My Aron.”
This covering of the Aron contained a tremendous amount of gold and was called kapores – meaning “forgiveness,” for this was one of the ways Bnei Yisrael were forgiven for the sin of the Golden Calf.
HaShem said, “Take this chunk of gold and carve out 2 Keruvim facing each other. Whenever I speak to you, My voice will come out from this place.”
These 2 Keruvim were gold figures in the shape of angels – one with the face of a young boy and the other had the face of a young girl.
HaShem said, “Make poles of acacia wood covered by gold. Insert the poles through rings on the sides of the Aron, so that the Aron could be carried when you travel. Never remove these poles.”

Miracles Galore!

It was the privilege of the Levi’im (Levites) to carry the Aron when Bnei Yisrael traveled from place to place. With all that gold, it must have been extremely heavy, but miraculously, the Levi’im didn’t feel any weight on their shoulders at all. In fact, the Aron lifted the Levi’im and also carried them!
And yet another miracle! According to the measurements of the Torah, the Aron extended from one end of the Kodesh to the other end. It should have taken up all of the space in the Kodesh Kodashim, yet miraculously there was plenty of room for the Kohen Gadol to walk all around the Aron! In the words of our great Sages, “The place of the Aron occupied no space at all.”

The Lechem HaPonim – The Show Bread

HaShem continued, “Make a Shulchan, a wooden table. Completely cover the Shulchan in pure gold, with a decorative gold rim all around the edges.”
On the table were special trays for the 12 loaves of lechem hapanim – the special bread. These 12 loaves were baked every Friday, before Shabbos, and remained there for an entire week, until the following Shabbos, when they were given to the group of Kohanim who were working that week in the Mishkan. At the exact moment the 12 loaves from the past week were removed from the shulchan, 12 new loaves were placed on the shulchan. So it ended up that the shulchan was never empty of its 12 loaves of lechem, not even for one second.
Miraculously, while the 12 loaves of bread were replaced with new bread – the “old” bread stayed perfectly fresh!
Years later, when Bnei Yisrael entered the land of Israel, they would visit the Beis HaMikdash 3 times a year – Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos. During those visits, to demonstrate this great miracle, the Kohanim would lift up the “old” loaves of bread and proudly proclaim to everyone, “Look how much HaShem loves us! See this bread baked a week ago? It’s soft and fresh, as if it came out of the oven just now!”
This is why it’s called “The Show Bread,” showing Bnei Yisrael the awesome miracle of HaShem.

The Year Round Menorah

Now came the next set of instructions. “Take another huge chunk of gold,” said HaShem, “and carve out for Me a golden Menorah with 7 straight branches.”
This Menorah in the Mishkan was not quite the same as the kind you light on Chanukah – the Chanukah Menorah has 8 lights while the Mishkan Menorah had only 7.
HaShem described exactly to Moshe exactly how He wanted it built:
“Decorate the branches of the Menorah with 3 shapes: 22 cups, 11 buttons, and 9 flowers. Set aside a bowl at the top of each branch to hold the oil and place a wick inside each bowl. Only the purest, clearest olive oil may be used for My precious Menorah.”
This was quite a challenge to accomplish. Usually, craftsmen first make the detailed, smaller pieces and then attach them to the main structure. In this instance, Moshe was commanded to carve all the cups, buttons and flowers from one single block of gold, a task difficult for even the most skilled expert!
On top of this Moshe was quite puzzled. He didn’t understand exactly how this special Menorah was to be built.
“I really wish I knew precisely how to build this Menorah. I’m a bit confused and I can’t afford to make one mistake… After all, it’s a Mitzvah from HaShem.”
You know the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so HaShem showed Moshe a Heavenly vision of this Menorah, made of fire.
Moshe began building the Menorah, but still, had a very difficult time. So HaShem told Moshe, “Throw the block of gold into a fire.” Moshe, of course did what he was told and POOF – out came a perfectly shaped Menorah – 7 branches decorated with 22 cups, 11 buttons, and 9 flowers!

The Roof and the Walls

In any major building, every detail is important, even the roof. So too, in the holy building of HaShem, the Mishkan. The covering was unique. It had 3 layers, made of all kinds of colorful animal skins. It was absolutely breathtaking!
The walls were made of beams of acacia wood, each one 10 Amos long. An Amah is a measurement that equals about 2 feet. The beams fit into silver sockets at the bottom – just like a giant set of Legos!
As a final, decorative touch, stunning curtains hung at the entrance to the Mishkan and around the courtyard inside.
In addition, HaShem gave Moshe many more instructions and fine details on how to construct this portable Mishkan in a way that even in a huge desert sand storm, it would remain standing strong and steady and not shake back and forth like a huge Slinky.

The Copper Altar

HaShem told Bnei Yisrael, “Make a large Mizbei’ach out of wood, covered in pure copper outside in the yard that surrounds the Mishkan. This is where My people should bring animals to sacrifice. Build a ramp leading up to the fire at the top, and place rings on its sides, to hold poles, so it can be carried during travels.”
This “Outside Altar,” also known as the “Copper Altar,” was holy, and miracles happened there all the time. For example, even though it stood under the open sky in the courtyard of the Mishkan, rain never put out its fire.
“And now the forecast… Heavy rain, followed by more rain, and more rain, all over the place… besides for the outer court of the Mishkan. As usual, not even a single drop of rain fell in that area!”
Also, even when the wind blew, the smoke from the altar always rose in a perfectly straight column right up to the sky.
This Mizbei’ach was so important that much of the next Sefer, the book of VaYikrah, was dedicated to the laws of bringing sacrifices on this “Outside Altar.”

Sacred Shuls

Although today we don’t have a Mishkan or a Beis HaMikdash, we do have a “miniature Beis HaMikdash.” In fact, we have many of them.
Our great Rabbis tell us that every synagogue in the world is a “Mikdash Mi’at,” a mini Holy Temple, and should be treated with the same respect as Bnei Yisrael had for the portable Mishkan in the desert and the Beis HaMikdash in Jerusalem.
If you ever have the opportunity to go to the Kotel HaMa’aravi, the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, you can get a taste of that sense of awe and respect experienced by Bnei Yisrael in the days of the Mishkan and the Beis HaMikdash.

Holy Homes

It’s not just the Shul that is a Mini-Mishkan/Beis HaMikdash. Our homes are as well.
Here are some ideas:
· Once upon a time, the Korbanos on the Mizbei’ach used to bring holiness into the world. Now, our tables, when surrounded by people having lively conversations about Torah, accomplish the very same thing.

· We begin our Shabbos meal by dipping some Challah into salt – just like the Korbanos, which were always salted.

· Our tables are likened to a Mizbei’ach, which had to be built without any sharp iron tools, and that’s how the custom began to remove all the knives from the table before Bentching – Grace After Meals.

· Remember the 12 special loaves of bread that the Kohanim would place on the Shulchan every Shabbos? Well, some holy Tzadikim have a custom to have 12 loaves of Challah on their Shabbos tables! For simple people, like us at Shazak, it’s our custom to have two Challos, each made of 6 strands of dough – which equals 12 (6+6=12)!

· There was a special place in the Beis HaMikdash called the Lishkas Chasha’im (“the secret room”) where people would quietly leave money to be distributed among the poor. The Pushka (Tzedakah box) in every Jewish home is a continuation of this wonderful custom.

· Ever notice that Jewish homes have a lot of holy books, a.k.a. Seforim placed on a beautiful bookshelf? Perhaps that’s like the Sefer Torah and Luchos that were carefully stored in the Beis HaMikdash.

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