Shemini: Why there’s no holiday to commemorate the Mishkan’s consecration

The date of the consecration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) is noted twice in the Torah. It is first mentioned, with great emphasis, in Parshat Pekudei (Exodus 40:17)

ויהי בחדש הראשון בשנה השנית באחד לחדש הוקם המשכן
It came to pass in the first month, in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the Mishkan was set up.

This special date is noted once again in this week’s reading, Parshat Shemini (Leviticus 9:1 and 4)

ויהי ביום השמיני קרא משה לאהרון ולבניו ולזקני ישראל … כי היום ה’ נראה אליכם
And it came to pass on the eighth day, that Moses called Aaron and his sons,
and the elders of Israel (1) for today the Lord appeared to you (4)

Rashi explains that this “eighth day” is actually the first day of the month of Nisan, the day on which the Mishkan was erected, i.e. the same day mentioned in Pasrshat Pekudei.

One would assume that such a momentous occasion would merit a holiday of its own, a day that would be celebrated in perpetuity. After all, we are told precisely which day it was – not once but twice. And yet we have no such tradition, no special celebration, no commemoration of the very day on which G-d began His residence on earth;

ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם
And they shall make for me a sanctuary and I shall dwell in their midst
(Parshat Terumah).

In fact,  it is interesting to note that on this special day, Moshe assembles only Aharon, his sons and the Israelite Elders, but conspicuously excludes the general population who went about their business as if nothing momentous was happening. One would think such an occasion would be most publicly and lavishly celebrated.

In my earlier notes on Parshat Terumah I suggested that “Clearly the Ark was intended to be permanently portable and ready to be moved on the shortest notice. Can it be that we were never meant to have a central, fixed Temple? That it was always God’s intention to move around and visit with His People wherever they were in the Land of Israel?” 

Whether or not it was G-d’s intent for the Mishkan to never be anchored in one single place – let alone for a monumental Temple to be erected in Jerusalem – it is evident from our lack of celebration, and from the fact that the Israelites were kept apart from this dedication event, that the Torah is not especially fond of monuments.

Indeed, the edifice complex that seems to afflict modern Jewry is actually alien to core Jewish tradition. Our fixation on gorgeous houses of worship is somehow inimical to the itinerant, highly portable, earthly abode that G-d chose for Himself. Clearly the most significant charitable contributions from a Torah perspective are for those unsung, but vital, operational costs rather than the brick and mortar philanthropic offerings that glorify every name but that of the Creator.

 

About the Author
J.J Gross is a veteran creative director and copywriter, who made aliyah in 2007 from New York. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a lifelong student of Bible and Talmud. He is also the son of Holocaust survivors from Hungary and Slovakia.
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