Thursday, July 05, 2007

Mishkan, Tabernacle - Bridal Chamber of God and Israel

In an earlier entry we discussed the significance of sacred tents in early Israelite thought. The Mishkan (“Dwelling [of YHWH]”), was the exemplar and physical realization of this idea. It was the portable sanctuary built by the Israelites while they sojourned in the desert for forty years, in order that God would be continuously present in the midst of the people.

[The Ark with two cherubs, as envisioned by E.M. Lilien bookplate]

In the erotic theology of the rabbis, it also the bridal chamber where God consummates His “union” with Israel:

[At Sinai] Moses went forth and came to the Israelite camp and aroused the Israelites from their sleep, saying to them: Arise from your sleep, for your God desires to give you the Torah. Already the bridegroom wishes to lead the bride and to enter the bridal chamber….And the Holy Blessed One went forth to meet them like a bridegroom who goes forth to meet the bride, so the Holy One went forth to meet them and give them the Torah (Midrash Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer 41)

....by the words “In the day of His espousals” is meant the day He entered the Tent of Meeting; and by the words “In the day of the gladness of His heart” is meant His gladness at Israel’s building of the Eternal habitation (PdRK 1:3).

The Mishkan was built at the explicit instructions of God (Ex. 25). The building project was overseen by Bezalel, a craftsman imbued with the spirit of wisdom and the capacity to manipulate the Hebrew Alef-Bet to wondrous purposes. The Cloud of the Glory of God would descend into the tent and address the whole people through Moses (Ex. 40:38). The relationship of the Mishkan to the “Tent of Meeting” (Ohel Moed) is ambiguous. In some passages they appear to be separate structures, in others they are one and the same.

The structure was built out of a vast array of materials - wood, gold, silver, copper, clothes of blue, purple and red, animal skins – given as free-will offerings by the Israelites. Its design was a microcosm of creation (Ex. R. 35:6; Num. R. 12:13, Legends of the Bible 409). It was the mirror image of a supernal tabernacle in the celestial dimensions:

When the Holy One, blessed be He, told Israel to set up the Tabernacle He intimated to the ministering angels that they also should make a Tabernacle, and when the one below was erected the other was erected on high. The latter was the tabernacle of the youth whose name was Metatron, and therein he offers up the souls of the righteous to atone for Israel in the days of their exile. The reason then why it is written ETH THE TABERNACLE is because [the 'et' signifies] another tabernacle was erected simultaneously with it. In the same strain it says, The place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, the Sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established (Ex. XV, I7) ['place' refers to one mishkan, 'sanctuary' refers to the other]. - Numbers Rabbah XII:12 , as translated in Soncino Midrash Rabbah.

Its dimensions were based on symbolic numbers: sevens and tens. Divided into three zones (the enclosure, sanctuary and devir), it housed the Ark of Covenant, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the altars, the menorah, as well as the sacred vessels and instruments of the sacrificial cult. Besides the furnishings demanded by God, the Tabernacle displayed two miraculous items: the rod of Aaron and a bowl filled with manna.

Once the people settled Israel, the tent resided in various locations until David brought it to Jerusalem. Eventually Solomon replaced it as the central sanctuary of the Jews by building the permanent Temple.

To learn more, read: Cherubs; Gold; Ohel; Tent of Meeting in the EJMMM.

The Encyclopedia can be purchased online at http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050/sr=1-1/qid=1159997117/ref=sr_1_1/002-7116669-7231211?ie=UTF8&s=books


Post a Comment

<< Home