Shemot 25:1-27:19 [Hebcal] [על-התורה] שמות כה א-כז יט
Haftarah: Melachim Alef 5:26-6:13 (all) | Unless it is Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zachor, or Shabbat Rosh Chodesh
[על-התורה] הפטרה: מלכים א ה כו-ו יג (ע”פ כל המנהגים) | אלא אם כן זו שבת שקלים, שבת זכור, או שבת ראש חודש
- “Make Me a Sanctuary”
- The Aron (Ark)
- The Shulchan (Table)
- The Menorah (Lampstand)
- The Mishkan (Tabernacle)
- The Mizbeach (Altar)
- The Enclosure (חֲצַר הַמִּשְׁכָּן)
- Haftarah Summary – וה’ נתן חכמה לשלמה
Parashat Terumah explains the details of the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), Hashem’s dwelling-place on earth, so to speak. As in the previous parsha, Mishpatim, there is debate among the commentators about the chronology here. Specifically, Rashi on Shemot 31:8 (in the next parsha, and based on Tanchuma, Ki Tisa 31) states that the instructions for the Mishkan given in Parashat Terumah are presented out of order in the text and actually occur later, after Chet ha-Egel (the sin of the golden calf). Ramban on Shemot 25:1, consistent with his practice of reading the text chronologically unless compelled to do otherwise, maintains that now that Bnei Yisrael had received the Aseret ha-Dibrot (Ten Commandments), witnessed revelation, and entered into Brit Sinai (the covenant of Sinai), it was appropriate that they receive the instructions for the Mishkan, which would allow Hashem’s presence to dwell among them. In other words, the instructions for the Mishkan were given as they occur in the text (thus, prior to Chet ha-Egel).
A note on visual depictions of the Mishkan and its keilim (vessels): Many books, including editions of the Mishnah and Talmud on Seder Kodashim as well as dedicated publications, contain helpful images that clarify and enhance study of the texts related to the Mishkan and Mikdash.1 Necessarily, each depiction is interpretive, in that there are always areas of ambiguity or subjectivity in the text and we obviously have no living memory and very few remains of the Second Temple, sadly. There are areas of disagreement within the tradition about certain details, especially with regard to the Menorah, which we’ll get into below. It’s impossible for any one or even series of illustrations to capture the full range of possibilities and authoritative opinions, so just be aware that that is the case in seeking out visual representations. (There are, of course, also depictions from academic and Christian perspectives.) Jewish books on the subject generally have originally commissioned artwork based on traditional sources; Koren’s books are now using the images of the Temple Institute,2 which takes particular positions in its work. The Temple Institute’s gallery of images is a useful resource based on traditional sources and shows all the items detailed in Parashat Terumah (as well as those explained elsewhere).
“Make Me a Sanctuary”
Hashem instructs Moshe to accept contributions (terumah) “from every person whose heart is so moved” (כָּל אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ). Specifically, the donations are to be:
- Precious metals: gold (zahav – זָהָב), silver (kesef – כֶּסֶף) and copper (nechoshet – נְחֹשֶׁת);
- Textile materials: blue (techelet – תְּכֵלֶת), purple (argaman – אַרְגָּמָן), and crimson (תּוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי) yarns, fine linen (shesh – שֵׁשׁ), and goats’ hair (izim –עִזִּים);3
- Leather: tanned ram skins (eilim – עֹרֹת אֵילִם מְאָדָּמִים), dolphin skins (techashim – עֹרֹת תְּחָשִׁים);
- Wood: acacia wood (shittim – עֲצֵי שִׁטִּים);
- Oils and perfumes: oil (shemen – שֶׁמֶן) for lighting and spices (besamim – בְּשָׂמִים) for the anointing oil (shemen ha-mishcha – שֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה) and for the aromatic incense (ketoret ha-samim –קְטֹרֶת הַסַּמִּים);
- Precious stones: aquamarine beryl (shoham – שֹׁהַם)4 and other stones (אַבְנֵי מִלֻּאִים).
And then, we learn why the people are asked to bring these things:
:וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם
And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.Shemot 25:8
Hashem explains that He will give explicit and detailed instructions about how to accomplish this building.
The Aron (Ark)
First, instructions are given about making the ark (aron – אָרוֹן). It is to be made of acacia wood to the measurements of 2.5 cubits long, 1.5 cubits wide, and 1/5 cubits high.5 The aron is to be overlaid with gold inside and out and have a gold border or moulding (zer – זֵר). Four pure gold rings are to be cast for it, two on each side wall. The rings are designed to be used with acacia-wood poles (בַּדִּים), also overlaid with gold, which are for carrying the aron and may not be removed. Hashem says that the He will give Bnei Yisrael the edut (הָעֵדֻת), “the Pact,” to place in the aron.
The aron is to have a cover (kaporet – כַּפֹּרֶת) made of gold, 2.5 cubits long and 1.5 cubits wide. At the two ends of the cover are to be hammered figures of kruvim (cherubim – כְּרֻבִים):
וְהָיוּ הַכְּרֻבִים פֹּרְשֵׂי כְנָפַיִם לְמַעְלָה סֹכְכִים בְּכַנְפֵיהֶם עַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת וּפְנֵיהֶם אִישׁ אֶל :אָחִיו אֶל הַכַּפֹּרֶת יִהְיוּ פְּנֵי הַכְּרֻבִי
The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, shielding the cover with their wings. They shall confront each other, the faces of the cherubim being turned toward the cover.Shemot 25:20
Hashem’s presence will dwell above the kaporet, between the kruvim.
The Shulchan (Table)
Like the aron, the shulchan (table) of the Mishkan is to be made of acacia wood overlaid with gold, with a gold border (zer – זֵר) around it. Its dimensions are 2 cubits long, 1 cubit wide, and 1/5 cubits high. In addition, the shulchan is to have a rim (misgeret – מִסְגֶּרֶת) around it measuring a hand’s-breadth (tefach) wide.6 Similarly to the aron, the shulchan is to have four gold rings, attached at the corners by its legs. These, too, are used for carrying the table.
The shulchan also has accessories: bowls, ladles, jars, and jugs used for libations. All are to be cast out of pure gold. The purpose of the table: “And on the table you shall set the bread of display (often translated showbread), to be before Me always” (וְנָתַתָּ עַל הַשֻּׁלְחָן לֶחֶם פָּנִים לְפָנַי תָּמִיד).
The Menorah (Lampstand)
The particular decorative elements of the Menorah are exquisitely detailed in our parsha. It is to be made out of pure gold, shaped by “hammered work,” and made entirely out of one piece. It is to have a base and shaft, as well as three branches on each side of the shaft, for a total of six, each with three cups (in addition to the center lamp at the top of the shaft, which has four cups).7
שְׁלֹשָׁה גְבִעִים מְשֻׁקָּדִים בַּקָּנֶה הָאֶחָד כַּפְתֹּר וָפֶרַח וּשְׁלֹשָׁה גְבִעִים מְשֻׁקָּדִים בַּקָּנֶה הָאֶחָד כַּפְתֹּר וָפָרַח כֵּן לְשֵׁשֶׁת הַקָּנִים הַיֹּצְאִים מִן הַמְּנֹרָה
On one branch there shall be three cups (geviim) shaped like almond-blossoms (meshukadim), each with calyx (kaftor) and petals (perach), and on the next branch there shall be three cups shaped like almond-blossoms, each with calyx and petals; so for all six branches (kanim) issuing from the lampstand.Shemot 25:33
Another detail that is not explicit is the shape of the branches, and there is debate about whether they are curved or straight. Rashi on Shemot 25:32 says that the branches extend “diagonally” (בַּאֲלַכְסוֹן). A copy of Rambam’s Mishnah Commentary includes a small schematic diagram of the Menorah that features straight branches.8 However, most depictions of the Menorah, both Jewish and, famously, on the Roman Arch of Titus, show curved branches.9
The Menorah has its own keilim (service vessels) used in its lighting and maintenance, which are also to be made of pure gold: tongs (מַלְקָח) and fire pans (מַחְתֹּת). In total, a talent (kikar – כִּכָּר)10 of gold is to be used for the Menorah.
The Mishkan (Tabernacle)
The description of the physical aspects of the Mishkan begins with its cloth covering. Specifically, the covering is to be made of ten strips of cloth. The cloth is to consist of of fine twisted linen, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, with a design of cherubim worked into them. Each strip of cloth is to be of identical measurements: 28 cubits long and 4 cubits wide. Five strips are to be joined together, and the remaining five strips joined together.
Next, the hanging accessories attached to the cloths are described in detail: fifty loops of blue wool should be made on the edge of the outermost cloth of the one set, then the same for the second set, so that the two sets of fifty are opposite each other. Next, fifty gold clasps are to be made, which will be used to couple the two cloths together through the loops, “so that the tabernacle becomes one whole” (וְהָיָה הַמִּשְׁכָּן אֶחָד).
Following this, Bnei Yisrael are instructed to make a tent over the Mishkan consisting of eleven cloths of goats’ hair. All eleven must have the same measurements, 30 cubits long by 4 cubits wide. Five are to be joined together, then six joined together, such that the sixth cloth is folded over, forming the front of the tent. Again, fifty loops are to be made on each set, and they are to be joined together by fifty copper clasps. An extra half-cloth is to overlap at the back of the Mishkan, while an extra half-cubit of each length should hang down to fully cover the Mishkan. The tent itself should have a covering of tanned ram skins, and a covering of dolphin skins above.
The planks of the Mishkan are to be made of acacia wood. Standing upright, they measure 10 cubits long and 1.5 cubits wide. Each panel is to have two interlacing tenons, a type of wooden join.
The south side of the Mishkan is to consist of 20 planks on the south side, each with 2 silver sockets for each tenon, for a total of 40 silver sockets. Similarly, there are to be 20 on the north side, also with a total of 40 silver sockets.
The back of the tabernacle is formed as follows: 6 planks on the west (at the rear) and 2 planks for the two rear corners. The two corners should match at the bottom, and end in a ring at the tops.11 Together, these 8 planks are to have 16 silver socks, two for each plank.
In addition, each plank is to have bars of acacia wood made for it: 5 bars for each side wall, then 5 more bars for the rear (western) wall, for a total of 15 bars. A center bar should run halfway up the planks from end to end. All the bars are to be overlaid with gold and have gold rings as holders.
The planks of the Mishkan are to be set up as was explained on Har Sinai.
Next, directions are given for the parochet (פָרֹכֶת), a special curtain that serves as a partition between Kodesh,the holiness of the Mikdash, and Kodesh ha-Kodashim (קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים), the Holy of Holies, where the aron is to be placed. The parochet is to be made of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine twisted linenand have a design of kruvim worked into it. The curtain is to be hung on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and having gold hooks set in four silver sockets to hold up the parochet.
The aron is to be carried in and its cover, the kaporet, placed on it. The shulchan goes outside the parochet (but inside the Mishkan, in the Kodesh part) by the north wall, and the menorah goes opposite the shulchan, by the south wall.
Finally, Bnei Yisrael are to make a screen (masach – מָסָךְ) for the entrance of the Tent (ohel – אֹהֶל), of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine twisted linen, worked in embroidery (maaseh rokem – מַעֲשֵׂה רֹקֵם). The masach is to be held up by five posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and having gold hooks set in five copper socks.
The Mizbeach (Altar)
The mizbeach (מִּזְבֵּחַ) is to be made of acacia wood. It is to be square, 5 cubits by 5 cubits, and 3 cubits high. It is also to have four horns (karnot – קַרְנֹת) on its corners, made of one piece with the altar. The mizbeach is to be covered with copper.
The mizbeach has a number of keilim used in the service that takes place on it, all made of copper: the pail (sir – סִּיר) for removing its ashes (deshen – דֶּשֶׁן), the dust pan or scraper (yaeh – יָעֶה), basin (mizrak – מִזְרָק), flesh hooks (mazlegot – מִזְלְגֹתָ), and fire pans (machtot – מַחְתֹּת).
The mizbeach is to have grating of meshwork in copper (מִכְבָּר מַעֲשֵׂה רֶשֶׁת נְחֹשֶׁת), with four copper rings at the four corners of the mesh; “set the mesh below, under the ledge of the altar, so that it extends to the middle of the altar” (וְנָתַתָּה אֹתָהּ תַּחַת כַּרְכֹּב הַמִּזְבֵּחַ מִלְּמָטָּה וְהָיְתָה הָרֶשֶׁת עַד חֲצִי הַמִּזְבֵּחַ).
The Altar also gets acacia poles overlaid with copper. These are to be inserted into the rings for carrying the Altar. Finally, the Altar is to be hollow.
The Enclosure (חֲצַר הַמִּשְׁכָּן)
The long south and north sides of the Mishkan get an enclosure made of 100 cubits of hangings of fine twisted linen. Holding it up are twenty posts with twenty copper sockets of copper, and hooks and bands made of silver.
The shorter west (back) side of the Mishkan gets 50 cubits of hangings, held up by ten posts with ten sockets. The east (front) side also gets 50 cubits of hangings, but in a more complicated configuration to accommodate the front gate of the enclosure. The gate gets a screen of 20 cubits of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine twisted linen, done in embroidery, held up by four posts and their four sockets. Each flank (the two sides of the gate) get 15 cubits of hangings hung on three posts with their three sockets.
All of these enclosure posts are to be banded with silver, with silver hooks and copper sockets. In total, the length of the enclosure measure 100 cubits with an even width of 50 cubits. Its height is 5 cubits, lined with the fine twisted linen hangings hanging in copper sockets. All other keilim of the Mishkan are to be made of copper, including all pegs.
Haftarah Summary – וה’ נתן חכמה לשלמה
[Melachim Alef 5:26-6:13]
The haftarah details the building of the first Beit ha-Mikdash, which was a “permanent Mishkan” established in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) by Melech Shlomo (King Solomon). Like Parashat Terumah, the haftarah includes the myriad fine details of how the Beit ha-Mikdash was built.
If it is Shabbat Zachor, Shabbat Shekalim, or Shabbat Rosh Chodesh (Adar), then different haftarot are read.
Image: by James Jacques Joseph Tissot, The Ark of the Covenant, c. 1900.I Kings 5:26-6:13
- Artscroll has a recent book on the Mishkan, available in English or Hebrew (it’s available in two sizes; I recommend the large format), as well as one in the same series about Beit ha-Mikdash (ha-Sheni), and Seforim Center has a nice selection of books in Hebrew.
- Such as its Noe Edition Seder Kodashim, and this dedicated book.
- This word literally means “goats” but here means “goat’s hair,” a.k.a. mohair.
- The (Christian) King James English translation renders this “onyx,” which has been followed by some Jewish publishers. Onkelos has beryl (probably).
- A cubit is a measurement of the forearm; the word cubit comes from Latin cubitum, “elbow,” since the cubit, used by various Near Eastern cultures, was measured from the elbow to the forefinger. The Hebrew term for cubit (and an arm’s length, and the middle finger) is amah, אַמָּה. There is halachic debate about the standard length of a cubit; it is, generally and roughly, about 48 centimeters.
- As with the amah, there is halachic debate about the precise measurement of the tefach, but it is approximately 6-8 centimeters.
- The cups as decorative elements, not usable cups for wicks. There are different opinions about how they are arrayed: see, for a prominent view, Rashi on Menachot 28b (ד”ה וטפח) and the Tosafot there (ד”ה וטפח).
- Bodl. Ms. Pococke 295.
- For archeological images as well as Rambam’s illustration, see here (Temple Institute); and here for images from early printed books (Seforim Blog).
- This unit of weight measurement is also subject to much debate, but is, roughly, just under 30 kg.
- See Rashi on Shemot 26:24 for his explanation on this description.