The Torah is not written in chronological order – and the Parsha of Trumah is a perfect example. By the Golden Calf fiasco, Rashi notes that’s what happened on the 17th of Tammuz, when Moshe first came down from Mount Sinai with the Torah. He immediately reascended, this time for a two consecutive periods of forty days, descending on Yom Kippur when we were forgiven for the Golden Calf, and so began our annual day atonement. That same Yom Kippur Hashem began to command us about the building of a Mishkan. So why was it said here, and the episode of the calf delayed? Good question, and there are man good answers as to why the Torah chose an order that was not chronological. Let’s try to learn a couple now….
A most simple reason is to begin with praise, and carry on the momentum generated at Mount Sinai and the ensuing climaxes, and to delay the downfall and disgrace. As well, Hashem cares for the honour of His people, and thus He shielded our shame from the eyes of the world, by making the sin not appear directly after History’s greatest revelation, where the whole nation heard from the Mouth of the Creator Himself not to serve idolatry, or to make an image of Him. Of course the truth is accessible for all those who seek it, and give credence to our traditions, but of these people we are not concerned if they find out our failures, for these seekers of truth are probably on our side and will apply their greater knowledge of us to help us. (A similar example of this, Rashi points out, is how the Torah tells of Abraham’s father’s death before telling of Abraham’s journey to Israel, even though he calculates that the events were in the reverse order. Again, in order to shield Abraham from criticism for leaving his elderly father, the Torah clouded the truth for those who seek it, and would better appreciate that Abraham was ought to heed the voice of God and leave his land of idolatry to carve out a new path amongst mankind dedicated to Hashem and to true righteousness.)
The Ramban argues on Rashi, and maintains that our parsha did occur before the episode of the calf. He agrees to the principle that the Torah is not confined to chronological order, as the gemarra already shows, but he says we only apply this rule where it is necessary and not as often as Rashi does. The Ramban claims that the essence of the Mishkan was an atonement for the sin of the Calf, and its great holiness was only a remnant of the all-infusing sanctity the entire nation could have retained had we never sinned (the midrash says that when the Jews said “We will do, and We will listen’ (in Hebrew – it is two words), we were each adorned with two crowns, and even the Angels revered our exaltedness at that time, which was equated to the level of Adam in Eden before the sin – but when we sinned, everything tumbled once again into darkness, mortality and struggle.) Rashi says this is why it is called ‘the Mishkan of testimony’ – for it testified that we were forgiven for our sin. The Ramban goes at length to demonstrate that the Mishkan was an a priori goal of Hashem in the redemption and maturation of our people. As we said in our answer page, he understands that the essence of the Mishkan was for there to be a physical location on Earth where Hashem’s glory would be revealed (like a perpetuated Mount Sinai experience), and where we could forever communicate with and serve Him.
The Ramban’s explanation of the Mishkan can lead us to another reason as to why our parsha Truma was stated here, after the giving of the Torah, without being interrupted by the Calf. The midrash gives a parable where sometimes a the seller is sold with his sale. A king once married off his beloved daughter to a worthy noble from another kingdom. After the marriage, the king exclaimed to his new son-in-law “it is too much for me to part with my beloved daughter, of course you shall take her back with you as I promised, only I beseech you to build for me a small abode near you, so that I shall have a place to reside when I wish to visit”. So too when Hashem gave over His beloved Torah to the the noble Jewish nation, Hashem now desired a place to reside amongst the lovely couple, and so the Mishkan is related right after the giving of the Torah. This shows us why we were commanded to have a Mishkan, and that the King is watching how we take care of His ‘daughter’, thus maintaining shalom bayis with Hashem, depends on our shalom bayis with His Torah.
Perhaps we could say that to be worthy of having a ‘House of God’ and serving in it, we have to be on a very high level of righteousness and spirituality. Thus after the parsha Mishpatim, which incorporates the majority of interpersonal laws, we also have the wherewithal to be a light unto the nations and a people of the Holy Temple. We might say the blessing given at a briss alludes to this: “Just as he has entered the briss (covenant), so may he enter into Torah, Chupah, and good deeds.” Meaning, that we don’t marry off our children as soon as they become obligated at the age of Bar and Bas Mitzvah, because in order to properly live with another, and to become a giving, fore bearing partner, one must be mature, and primed with the virtues of Torah.
In a slightly different vein, we have numerous sources which prove that Hashem relates to us according to the way we relate to others, (e.g. if you want a good judgment on Rosh Hashana, you should lead by striving to judge others favorably, or if you are forgiving with others, Heaven will be forgiving with you), – we mentioned last week that the juxtaposition of the last mitzvah in Yisro, the building of an altar, with the parsha Mishpatim, taught us that just as the Temple brings shalom to the world, so too do the courts which implement societal justice. In other words, it is absolutely imperative to have the basis of social justice and charity from Parsha Mishpatim, in order that our Mishkan can endure and bear fruit.
Now it is your turn to plunge the Torah for more reasons, and please share what you come up with. Let us all try to appreciate the sanctity of all our places of prayer and Torah learning, where Hashem’s Shechina (presence) still resides (and thereby many customs, halachos and architecture regarding our shuls parallel the Temple). We can also all strive to make our homes into little sanctuaries of virtue and islands of light in our troubled and trying times, by learning the lessons of the Mishkan and the order of the Torah surrounding it.
Good Shabbos and Happy Rosh Chodesh Adar.
-Beth Shifra Crew