Noach and the Mikdash – Noach


The Mefarshim ask why the ark was called a תיבה and not the more common term for a vessel that floats on water, like ספינה or אוניה? And if you think that the latter are more “modern” words, we see evidence in the psukkim to the contrary - זְבוּלֻן לְחוֹף יַמִּים יִשְׁכֹּן וְהוּא לְחוֹף אֳנִיֹּת ...... (בראשית מט, יג) and also וַיִּירְאוּ הַמַּלָּחִים וַיִּזְעֲקוּ אִישׁ אֶל אֱלֹהָיו וַיָּטִלוּ אֶת הַכֵּלִים אֲשֶׁר בָּאֳנִיָּה אֶל הַיָּם לְהָקֵל מֵעֲלֵיהֶם וְיוֹנָה יָרַד אֶל יַרְכְּתֵי הַסְּפִינָה וַיִּשְׁכַּב וַיֵּרָדַם (יונה א, ה)

The Zohar Hakadosh says that the word תיבה has the same letters as בית ה' and that תיבה was another name for the ארון הברית, concluding that תיבת נח was equivalent to a Beit Mikdash. I would like to explore this principle in more depth and conclude with a reference to Meir Panim that is doubly appropriate to parshat Noach and the upcoming elections.

When it comes to measurements, in all except two cases the Torah is very vague.

When HKB”H tells Avraham לך לך, to leave Charan and go to Eretz Canaan, He doesn’t tell him that the journey is 1080.4km - I looked it up on Google (BTW if you were ever wondering whether Avraham was Ashkenazi or Sefardi, it is unequivocal – he was an Iraqi Jew). HKB”H just gives him a vague direction אל הארץ אשר אראך – “Keep walking until I tell you to stop!”

When Yitzchak sees Eliezer approaching with Rivka, it doesn’t say how far off they were, but simply וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה גְמַלִּים בָּאִים. How far off were they? 100m? 1km? 5km? The Torah doesn’t say.

When Yaakov does “tricks with sticks” to make his flocks multiply more and faster than Lavan’s, it describes the types of wood the sticks were made from and how the bark was peeled off in strips. However, how long were the sticks? Nobody knows, because the Torah does not say.

When Hashem tells Moshe to take his staff, or Aharon to throw down his staff …. How long was the staff? The Torah does not say.

When Am Yisrael sinned with the עגל הזהב, what were the dimensions of the עגל? How long, wide, high? Nobody knows, because the Torah does not say.

Only in two places does the Torah provide explicit specifications in regards to measurements – תיבת נח and the משכן.  

The length, width and height of the תיבה is spelled out to Noach, 300 amot, by 50 amot, by 30 amot …. nothing vague about that! Similarly, every component of the Mishkan is detailed, the length, width and height - the Aron, the Menorah, the Shulchan, the Mizbeach Haketoret, the קרשים, the Parochet, the Mizbach Ha’olah, etc. etc.

The תיבה was made from cedar wood (Onkelos), coated on both sides by כֹּפֶר, bitumen. The reason it took Noach so long to build is because he refused to use existing cedar trees that had been used for עבודה זרה. He planted new ones and waited for them to grow. A large percentage of the Mishkan is made from cedar wood, coated on both sides with gold.

The תיבה had a covering which Noach removed after the water subsided (בראשית ח, יג). The Mishkan had a covering (שמות מ, יט).

The תיבה was compartmentalized into three sections תַּחְתִּיִּם שְׁנִיִּם וּשְׁלִשִׁים תַּעֲשֶׂהָ.  Similarly the Mishkan/Mikdash was divided into three compartments, the Kodesh Hakodashim, the Kodesh and the Azara.

The Mefarshim compare the צהר in the ark to the Menorah in the Mishkan – they both provided light.

Just as Noach explicitly followed Hashem’s instructions in building the ark וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּהוּ ה' (בראשית ז, ה), so too did Moshe in building the Mishkan  וַיַּעַשׂ מֹשֶׁה כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה' אֹתוֹ כֵּן עָשָׂה (שמות מ, טז).

Where did all those animals fit? thousands and thousands of them? How is it that all the food they had in store, for themselves and the animals, lasted an entire year and did not spoil? Compare this to how the Mishna (Avot 5, 5) describes the miracles that occurred in the Mikdash  ....ולא הסריח בשר הקדש מעולם .... ולא הזיק נחש ועקרב בירושלים מעולם  ..... ולא אמר אדם לחברו צר לי המקום שאלין בירושלים.

The date the flood ceased, וַיְהִי בְּאַחַת וְשֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה בָּרִאשׁוֹן בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ חָרְבוּ הַמַּיִם מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ (בראשית ח, יג) was the same date the Mishkan was completed,  וַיְהִי בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הוּקַם הַמִּשְׁכָּן (שמות מ, יז), the first day of Nisan.

After the flood, HKB”H’s שכינה appeared in the cloud וְהָיָה בְּעַנְנִי עָנָן עַל הָאָרֶץ וְנִרְאֲתָה הַקֶּשֶׁת בֶּעָנָן (בראשית ט, יד). Chazal say one should not look directly at a rainbow because it is the same as looking at the Kohanim when they go up to duchen – it is like looking directly at the שכינה. Similarly, when the Mishkan was completed, it says וַיְכַס הֶעָנָן אֶת אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וּכְבוֹד ה' מָלֵא אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן (שמות מ, לד).

There are many more similarities (they would fill an entire shiur on its own), however the sampling above is enough to illustrate the connection between תיבת נח and the Mishkan/Mikdash and the question is “Why is there such a close connection between the two?”

The Mefarshim give different answers on numerous levels. The answer I would like to bring here is a “structural” one.

A primary purpose for which HKB”H created this world was that His שכינה would reside here. For such a thing to take place you need the appropriate infrastructure, both physical and spiritual. There are very precise specifications for an environment in which the שכינה can reside. We know that in the tents of all the Avot, the שכינה was present, they all possessed the infrastructure to enable that.

The purpose of building the Mishkan and the subsequent Batei Mikdash, was to duplicate that phenomenon. The Mishna (Avot 3, 6) gives us an idea of what kind of spiritual infrastructure is required for the שכינה to reside. One aspect of the specifications is a specific number of people, or alternatively, a certain behavioral pattern.

Every minute facet of the Mikdash has significance, which if lacking, the שכינה will not reside in it. The length, width and height of every structure and vessel, the compartmentalization, the placement, the angles, the materials, the method of service of each …… every detail has to be exact. If the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur takes a חופן measure of the Ketoret and it is one granule too much or too little, the Avodah is passul and Am Yisrael will not receive atonement for their sins. That is but one of myriad examples.

When HKB”H gave the commandment to build the Mikdash (Shmot 25, 8), the ultimate purpose was וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם , not that the שכינה should dwell in the “building”, but rather within each and every one of us. We each have to “build” a Mikdash within ourselves. How do we do such a thing? A blueprint is required. That blueprint is the physical structure  of the Mikdash. However, that is just the starting point. The עיקר is to understand and apply the reason why each part of the physical structure is like it is. Nothing is random in the Mikdash. Every facet of it teaches us an essential lesson to molding our physical makeup, our thought processes and our behavior in order that our physical and spiritual “structure” will be suitable to house the שכינה.

I have spent years studying the Lechem Hapanim. The lessons it teaches us in how to behave and how to lead our lives are profound. I have tried (and continue b”H) to convey them in my numerous shiurim over the years and they are concentrated in sefer Meir Panim. I can tell you two things. Firstly, I have barely begun scratching the surface of the Lechem Hapanim. What lies below is a treasure trove yet to be uncovered. Secondly, the Lechem Hapanim is only one of the myriad facets of the Mikdash – the Aron, Menorah, Ketoret, Mizbeach, Kiyor, Shirat Halevi’im, Bigdei Kehuna, Korbanot,  ….. Each harbors the same wealth of knowledge and depth as the Lechem Hapanim.

If you were a Kohen or Levi serving in the Mikdash, you experienced it visually and hands-on for two full weeks every year and also on the regalim. If you were a Yisrael you experienced part of it (Yisraelim were not allowed to enter certain parts of the Mikdash, for example, they never saw the Mizbeach Haketoret), three days in the year, on Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. Physically being present in the Mikdash, witnessing the Avodah with your own eyes and being exposed to the multiple “visual aids” and the lessons they conveyed, gave you enough “food for thought” and “homework” to return home and apply them the remainder of the year - transforming yourself and your home into a Mikdash where the שכינה could also reside. In this respect, the Mikdash was, להבדיל אלף אלפי הבדלות, like a “cellphone recharger”. You left with sufficient “charge” to last until your next visit.

Why was תיבת נח like a Mikdash? HKB”H had decided to erase the world with a flood. He left only one small environment that was not destroyed, in which His שכינה could reside - and that was inside the תיבה. For the תיבה to become a Mikdash, it had to meet the same specifications, hence the numerous parallels.

We daven that the Third Beit Hamikdash be rebuilt, בבי"א. What are we actually davening for? For El Aksa mosque to be flattened by the Heavenly Mikdash that will descend ready built from Heaven? For beautiful architecture that will surpass even Herod’s Temple? For the pomp and ceremony featuring pure golden vessels and the Heavenly music of the Levi’im choir? For the incredible aroma of the Ketoret that will make the perfume industry obsolete? For watching the Gedolei Hador doing juggling acts during Simchat Beit Hasho’eva?

The answer is yes to all the above, but they are not the main reason, they are just the preamble! What we are really davening for is that by having the Mikdash again, we will once more be capable of creating a true Mikdash within ourselves and enabling the שכינה to once more dwell among us and within us!

We can “approximate” it today, by studying Kodshim – it is like we are building the Mikdash, by reciting the Korbanot – it is as if we were bringing them, by treating our Batei Knesset with the same respect befitting the Mikdash, by improving our middot, using תפילה, etc. However these are poor substitutes for the real thing, only having the real Mikdash can truly achieve the task.

And even that is not enough. Even though Bayit Sheini existed and the Gemara (Bava Batra  4a) says it was spectacular, the שכינה did not reside in it and the reason it did not was because of שנאת חינם.

Which brings me to the epilogue of this shiur, and a quote from Meir Panim (פרק יד, קנב). As you know there are two opinions in the Gemara (Menachot 94b) regarding the shape of the Lechem Hapanim. R’ Chanina says it was like a תיבה פרוצה and R’ Yochanan says it was like ספינה רוקדת.

“The shape of the Lechem Hapanim teaches an important lesson about the unity of Am Yisrael in different periods. The תיבה reflects the perfection we aspire to, a time of peace and tranquility. It has a wide, level and balanced base (of consensus) and the flanks (the opinions) stand vertically upright and parallel to each other with honor. In contrast, the way Am Yisrael copes with the harsh reality in this world, is reflected by the ספינה. It has no level base (of consensus), [the base is curved] and the flanks (the opinions), sharply edged like knives, rise above and away from the water at opposing angles. In tranquil waters the תיבה is stable and is not tossed about, but in stormy seas it capsizes and sinks (Noach’s תיבה did not sink only because of a miracle). On the other hand, the ספינה remains stable in stormy seas because its base is curved like a smiling mouth. It dances in the waves and retains stability. When the opinions in a dispute reflect a smile and respect one another, that is considered a מחלוקת לשם שמים like Hillel and Shamai who knew to love peace like Aharon HaKohen and to greet everyone with a smiling countenance. The various ingredients in the Lechem Hapanim are the different factions in Am Yisrael (ראשי תיבות של "וְלָקַחְתָּ סֹלֶת וְאָפִיתָ אֹתָהּ שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה חַלּוֹת שְׁנֵי עֶשְׂרֹנִים יִהְיֶה הַחַלָּה הָאֶחָת" בגימטריא "הכיתות", וגם "מאירת עיניים") and they are all connected to each other as an integral unit יִהְיֶה הַחַלָּה הָאֶחָת. You thus have twelve loaves, symbolizing the Twelve Tribes שכולן שוין וכולן צדיקים (רש"י בראשית לה, כב) each in their unique path and purpose, laid out equally and at peace with each other on the שולחן of Hashem ("שלחן" בגימטריא "שוויוני" וגם "שלום יב"), with a smiling countenance, במאירת עיניים, in unity, and peace – both internal and mutual. By virtue of this they merit the Heavenly abundance.”

Next week we have yet another round of the “hate fest” that typifies the Israel national elections of late. Conducting elections once every four years is never pleasant, but at least we get a four year break in between, from the venom and unbridled hatred that explodes during this time. In the past four years we have had too many recurring elections that each end up with the same result, no decisive victory for either side. The destructive effects this divisive, repetitious process is having on our nation are patently obvious.

HKB”H is giving us, the modern western world, a lesson in democracy and how deficient it is as a system of government. Modern democracy only functions when there is a majority on one or either side and when the opposing factions respect the democratic process. The bastions of modern democracy, with the USA, UK and Israel at their forefront, are visibly demonstrating how the system breaks down when the vote is split equally and/or when the opposing factions resort to non-democratic means to eliminate their rivals. The system is broken and nobody is willing to admit it.

In the upcoming days we all need to say this special תפילה to HKB”H to restore unity to Am Yisrael, to reveal Himself to us and the world, visibly, overtly and unequivocally and by so doing, give Am Yisrael the wakeup call we so desperately need.

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱ-לֹקֵינוּ וֵא-לֹקֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁתַצִּילֵנוּ מִקִּנְאַת אִישׁ מֵרֵעֵהוּ וְלֹא יַעֲלֶה קִנְאַת אָדָם עַל לִבֵּנוּ וְלֹא קִנְאָתֵנוּ עַל אֲחֵרִים. תֵּן בְּלִבֵּנוּ שֶׁנִּרְאֶה כָּל אֶחָד מַעֲלַת חֲבֵרֵינוּ וְלֹא חֶסְרוֹנָם, וְשֶׁנְּדַבֵּר כָּל אֶחָד אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַיָּשָׁר וְהָרָצוּי לְפָנֶיךָ, וְאַל יַעֲלֶה שׁוּם שִׂנְאָה מֵאֶחָד עַל חֲבֵרוֹ חָלִילָה. גַּלֵּה כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתְךָ עָלֵינוּ מְהֵרָה, וְהוֹפַע וְהִנָּשֵׂא עָלֵינוּ לְעֵינֵי כָל חָי. וְקָרֵב פְּזוּרֵינוּ מִבֵּין הַגּויִם וּנְפוּצוֹתֵינוּ כַּנֵּס מִיַּרְכְּתֵי אָרֶץ. וַהֲבִיאֵנוּ ה' אֱ-לֹקֵינוּ לְצִיּוֹן עִירְךָ בְּרִנָּה וְלִירוּשָׁלַיִם בֵּית מִקְדָּשְׁךָ בְּשִׂמְחַת עוֹלָם. וִיקַבְּלוּ כֻלָּם אֶת עֹל מַלְכוּתֶךָ וְתִמְלֹךְ עֲלֵיהֶם מְהֵרָה לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד. כִּי הַמַּלְכוּת שֶׁלְּךָ הִיא וּלְעוֹלְמֵי עַד תִּמְלוֹךְ בְּכָבוֹד. אָמֵן כֵּן יִהֲיֶה רָצוֹן.

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