LECTURE 92: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
THE MISHKAN AND THE OHEL MO’ED (II)
Rav Yitzchak Levi
In this lecture, we will continue our discussion of the
relationship between the Mishkan and the Ohel Mo'ed. Our primary
focus will be on the relationship between the two coverings – the linen inner
curtains of the Mishkan and the goats' hair curtains of the Ohel.
One of the most instructive points regarding the relationship between the
two coverings was voiced by the Ibn Ezra in his commentary to the following
shall make fifty loops on the edge of the one curtain that is outmost in the
coupling, and fifty loops in the edge of the curtain of the second coupling. (Shemot
The Ibn Ezra
shall make the number of loops on the curtains of the Ohel as the number
of the loops of the Mishkan, and similarly regarding the clasps. Only
that the loops of the Ohel and its clasps were not aligned with the loops
of the Mishkan and its clasps, but rather behind them two cubits towards
The Ibn Ezra argues that the loops of the Ohel – the goats' hair
curtains that rested on top of the curtains of the Mishkan – were not
precisely aligned with the loops of the Mishkan. Accordingly, if we
calculate the positioning of the curtains based on the data in the verses, we
find that the brass clasps of the goats' hair curtains were two cubits west of
the golden clasps of the curtains of the Mishkan.
The Netziv also tries to reconcile the difference between the
Mishkan, about which it says, "Upon the edge of the one curtain that
is at the edge of the first coupling; and likewise shall you make in the
uttermost edge of the curtain, that is outmost in the second coupling" (Shemot
26:4), and the goats' hair Ohel, about which it says that the loops are
made upon the edge of the curtain in both couplings (Shemot
learned that the word "upon" ("al") implies that he should move slightly
away from the edge of the curtain, and there sew the loops, which is not the
case regarding "in the edge," which implies that it should be sewn on the actual
edge. The reason is that the one curtain rested half on the Holy of Holies and
half behind the Holy of Holies, and the second curtain rested on the length of
the Heikhal, which is the Holy. And the loops were aligned with the veil
that separated between the Holy and the Holy of Holies, as I wrote below (v. 33)
on "And you shall hang up the veil under the clasps." Now the loops of blue
indicate a lofty connection to sanctity, as I wrote above. For this reason,
in the first half, which is the place of the Holy of Holies, the loops spread
out on the inside towards the west. But in the second curtain, which was over
the Heikhal, which is unconsecrated in relation to the Holy of Holies,
the blue ended at the actual edge, the place of connection, and not further
toward the east. This was not the case regarding the loops of the goats'
hair curtains, for even though presumably the loops were also of blue, for we
learn the unspecified from the explicit, nevertheless, the connection was on the
inside two cubits to the west, as will be explained (v. 9). If so, both [sets
of] loops were over the place of the Holy of Holies. Therefore, both of them
were "upon the edge" of the curtain (Shemot 26:4).
The Netziv repeats this idea in his commentary to Shemot
26:9, where he explains in greater detail how this gap of two cubits comes into
shall double the curtain, etc." Had the intention been to explain the place of
the surplus, its place would have been in verse 12: "And the remnant that
remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, you shall
double in the forefront of the Mishkan, and the half curtain, etc."
Moreover, the wording, "And you shall double the sixth curtain," implies the
entire curtain, but in truth it was only half of it. Rather, the principle that
Scripture is teaching us is that larger coupling with the six curtains should be
on the outside toward the forefront of the tent, and not the other way around.
If so, that the sixth curtain was on the outside, the clasps connecting the two
couplings were two cubits in towards the Holy of Holies. This is what I wrote
above on v. 4, that for this reason, it is written regarding both of them (v.
10), "upon the edge of the curtain."
similarly in his commentary to the book of Shemot.
We will first explain how the gap is created between the inner curtains
of the Mishkan and the goats' hair curtains of the Ohel, and
afterwards we shall try to understand the meaning of this difference.
The Torah describes in precise fashion the relationship between the veil
that separates between the Holy and the Holy of Holies and the loops and clasps
between the two couplings of the Mishkan:
shall hang up the veil under the clasps, that you may bring in there within the
veil the ark of the Testimony; and the veil shall be for you as a division
between the holy place and the most holy.
The Rashbam explains:
shall hang up the veil under the clasps" – of gold, which are at the end of the
twenty cubits of the curtains spread out from the front of the Mishkan.
For the Mishkan was thirty cubits long and the clasps were in the middle
of the forty cubits of the ten curtains. It turns out that from the veil to the
eastern entrance there is the twenty cubits of the Heikhal, and from it
towards the west there is the ten cubits of the Holy of Holies.
In other words, the
place where the two couplings of the curtains of the Mishkan were
connected was precisely over the veil that separated between the Holy and the
Holy of Holies. What follows with respect to the curtains is that they are
connected precisely in the middle; twenty cubits to the east is the Heikhal,
and twenty cubits to the west is the Holy of Holies, 10 cubits from east to
west, and 10 cubits of the western wall from top to bottom.
The goats' hair curtains were placed as follows: The easternmost
curtain extended two cubits east of the beginning of the structure (with the
curtain folded into two). There were six curtains in the eastern coupling, the
width of each curtain being four cubits. Thus, the western edge of the sixth
curtain was 22 cubits west of the entrance (24 minus 2).
The curtains of the Mishkan began at the eastern entrance to the
structure. The eastern coupling was comprised of 5 curtains, each curtain 4
cubits wide, for a total of 20 cubits. Thus, it turns out that the loops and the
clasps that connected the two couplings were situated twenty cubits west of the
entrance to the structure, exactly above the veil separating between the Holy
and the Holy of Holies. The loops and clasps that connected the two curtains of
goats' hair were situated 22 cubits west of the entrance of the structure, 2
cubits west of the veil separating between the Holy and the Holy of Holies –
that is, two cubits into the Holy of Holies. This, in essence, is what the Ibn
Ezra, the Netziv, and Cassutto all argue.
the significance of this discrepancy of two cubits?
simplest level, it may be proposed that there is a certain expanse within the
Holy of Holies that essentially belongs to both the Mishkan and the
Ohel Mo'ed. In order to better understand this, let us go back and examine
the fundamental difference between the Mishkan and the Ohel Mo'ed.
senses, it is possible to point to the two primary objectives of the Mishkan,
which find expression in the two names of the Mishkan.
objective of the Mishkan is to serve as the site of the resting of the
Shekhina, the place where the Shekhina rests among the people
of Israel. In this sense, the Mishkan gives expression to God's presence
in the world; it is the place where He watches over the world and is present in
it. This objective finds expression in the term "Mishkan," in the
inner curtain and in the Holy of Holies.
second objective of the Mishkan is to serve as the place where the people
of Israel come to serve God in His house, the place where the encounter
between God and the people of Israel takes place.
This objective finds expression in the term "Ohel Mo'ed," in the
curtains of goats' hair, and in the Holy/the Heikhal.
Mishkan – the inner curtains of fine twisted linen, of blue, purple, and
scarlet, with keruvim of artistic work – and the Ohel, the
curtains of goats' hair, covered the entire structure. But the primary resting
of the Shekhina was in the Holy of Holies, and the primary encounter
between God and Israel through the Divine service was in the Heikhal, the
commandment regarding the building of the Mikdash, "And let them make Me
a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them" (Shemot 25:8), defines two
states – the creation of a sanctified site by the people of Israel, in the wake
of which God dwells among the people of Israel. The component of the creation of
the Mikdash is connected to the Ohel Mo'ed, to the curtains of
goats' hair, whereas the element of the resting of the Shekhina is
connected to the Mishkan and the inner curtains.
to what we have argued, there are two cubits west of the veil that separates
between the Holy and the Holy of Holies that express both dimensions. On the one
hand, from God's side, they are in the Holy of Holies, owing to the Mishkan,
the inner curtains. On the other hand, from Aharon's side, they are in the
Heikhal, owing to the Ohel Mo'ed, the curtains of goats' hair.
clear that the site of the encounter with the Shekhina, where the inner
service takes place (the lighting of the candlestick, the burning of the
incense, and the placement of the showbread), must be connected to the place
where the Shekhina rests. The connection between the inner curtains and
the curtains of goats' hair, between the Holy of Holies and the Holy, is an
inner, essential, and necessary connection, and therefore both the Mishkan
and the Ohel cover and roof the entire structure, even though the
primary resting of the Shekhina is in the Holy of Holies and the primary
site of the encounter between God and Israel is in the Holy.
characteristics of each part of the structure are clear:
Mishkan is directed primarily at the Holy of Holies. It contains no vessels
related to service – the ark and the kaporet and the keruvim are
not vessels used in the Divine service. Each entry into the Holy of Holies
begins with the burning of incense, the function of which is to separate between
the appearance of the Shekhina and the entry of man. Entry into the Holy
of Holies is only permitted to the High Priest, and only on Yom Kippur to
perform the special services of the day.
reason, the Torah does not relate to the possibility of service in the
Mishkan in the Holy of Holies or of encounter between God and Israel in the
Mishkan. In some prophetic accounts, God is described as sitting upon the
keruvim, which serve as His throne. The Torah prohibits the
removal of the poles from the ark (Shemot 25:15) and the site of the
throne. The keruvim are winged creatures in order to emphasize that the
Shekhina can remove itself from the Mikdash.
of the Holy of Holies as the site of the resting of the Shekhina found
expression even in the Second Temple, when the Shekhina did not rest in
Israel (Yoma 21b) and when
the Holy of Holies did not house the ark, the kaporet, or the
keruvim; the inner chamber was totally empty. During this period, when the
High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, he would rest the
spoon and the pan on the even ha-shetiya (the "foundation stone"). Since
there is no substitute for the site of the resting of the Shekhina, no
other vessels were brought into the Holy of Holies in place of the ark, the
kaporet, and the keruvim. The chamber remained empty to give
expression to the Shekhina's absence.
also the reason that the inner curtain in the Mishkan was made of
curtains of blue, and purple, and scarlet and linen, there being nothing like it
except for the veil that leads into the structure. This is also the reason that
the curtains did not cover the silver sockets that represent the people of
Israel, because the Mishkan represents the site of the Shekhina's
difference also finds expression in the clasps that connect the curtains.
Whereas the clasps connecting the two couplings of the Mishkan were made
of gold, the material that was typical of the structure of the Mishkan
itself, the clasps connecting the curtains of goats' hair were made of brass,
the material that was characteristic of the courtyard of the Mishkan.
opposed to the Holy of Holies, which was, as stated above, the site of the
Mishkan, the Ohel Mo'ed was the site of the service. This point also
finds expression in several points, including:
The vessels found in
the Ohel Mo'ed were vessels used in the daily service, in which there was
a fixed meeting with God. The people of Israel were represented in the Holy
through the lighting of the ner tamid, from night to morning “before God
always” (Vayikra 24:3). Similarly, the people of Israel set the showbread
on the table before God at all times, “a permanent covenant” (Vayikra
vessels in the Holy represent the furnishings found in all homes (as can be seen
in the famous correspondence to the house of the Shunamit, "and let us set for
him there a bed, and a table, and a chair, and a lamp"),
the bread and the permanent lamp are those things offered by the people of
The curtains of
goats' hair also cover the silver sockets, which represent the people of Israel,
as opposed to the Mishkan, which does not cover the silver
sockets. In this context, it should be noted that the kid goats brought as sin
offerings were usually brought as communal sacrifices that come to atone for the
people of Israel (e.g., on the pilgrim festivals). There seems to be a certain
connection between the curtains of goats' hair and the kid goats.
The two couplings of
the curtains of goats' hair were connected with brass clasps. Brass is a
material that was not found in the structure of the Mishkan, but only in
the courtyard, the realm that clearly characterized the people of Israel, who
brought their sacrifices to God on the brass altar.
the two coverings have been clearly distinguished, each one with its own
characteristics, let us return to the two cubits to the west of the veil that
separates between the Holy and the Holy of Holies.
curtains of goats' hair were divided into two parts, dividing the Mishkan
into an outer section, into which entrance is permitted, and an inner section,
into which entrance is forbidden. However, the inner section of the curtains of
goats' hair do not begin exactly over the veil, as one might have expected. The
clasps that connect the two curtains of goats' hair are situated, as stated
above, two cubits past the location of the veil, which is found exactly below
the clasps that connect the curtains of the Mishkan. What is created,
thereby, is an expanse of two cubits with a double standing. From the
perspective of the curtains of the Mishkan, which constitute the resting
place of God in His house, this expanse is part of the Holy of Holies. On the
other hand, according to the location of the curtains of goats' hair, which
symbolizes the Mishkan as the site of God's encounter with the people of
Israel, this expanse is still not part of the Holy of Holies, and it constitutes
a part of the Holy.
High Priest entered into this area, from his perspective, he still belonged in
the framework of the Holy, whereas from God's perspective, he was already found
in the inner sanctum, in the Holy of Holies. This double standing is what makes
the High Priest's partial entry into the Holy of Holies possible. This entry
necessitates the shifting of the veil two cubits inwards, for it is the veil
that separates between the outer portion in which entry is permitted, and the
inner portion in which it is forbidden. It would appear that this movement of
the veil is achieved by way of the cloud of the incense, which serves as a veil
that separates between the priest entering and the ark.
issue has exceedingly important ramifications regarding the division of the
structure of the Mishkan. On the simplest level, the structure can be
divided into three parts:
- the inner curtains that are directed primarily at the Holy of Holies,
the place where God rests His Shekhina.
– the curtains of goats' hair that are directed primarily at the Holy,
the Heikhal – the place where God meets the people of Israel, and they
come to visit Him in his house.
where the brass altar stands, which
represents the offering of the sacrifices of the people of Israel.
coming shiurim, we will deal with the division of the Mishkan –
the structure itself, including the Holy of Holies, as opposed to the courtyard.
(Translated by David