This week’s parasha starts with an accounting of the materials donated to the משכן:
Rashi notes an oddity in the wording of this pasuk:
So somehow the celebration of the generosity of בני ישראל, and all the gold and silver they donated, contains a hint of terrible things to come. The מִשְׁכָּן is a מַשְׁכּוֹן, collateral on a pledge that will be taken in payment by הקב״ה if we do not live up to the covenant. Rashi reads משכן-משכן as a reference to the two בתי המקדש, but we saw last week that the ה הידיעה is midrashicly interpreted as a third item (הדברים: דברים משמע תרין ה’׳א מרבי חד). Here too, I think the duplication hints at the destruction (or the repossession) of the two בתי המקדש but המשכן hints at the other destruction that preceded them: the destruction of משכן שילה by the Philistines.
So why when we celebrate the building of the משכן do we bring up its eventual three-fold destruction?
The idea that the first tablets carried the seeds of their own destruction is taken from the Midrash:
So having something flashy, public, attention-gathering inevitably brings an עין הרע. We do not have to interpret that mystically or superstitiously: we can understand that it is human nature to resent something that someone else has that we do not, and we try to undermine it. And if we are the one who has that thing, our priorities become warped as we try to keep it away from others.
So why make the משכן of gold and silver if that is only going to inspire hatred and jealousy? Part of the answer is that the gold of the משכן served as an atonement for a worse sin:
So the gold that was the temptation that led to the golden calf was used to create the משכן, which was meant to be the atonement for that sin. But that very gold would lead to the עין הרע that would in turn lead to the destruction of the משכן and its successors, the ביתי מקדש. Why? Why not do something less flashy as an atonement?
We have to understand that there are three aspects to the “מקדש”.
There is the משכן, the “place” of the שכינה. It is the means though which we feel the presence of הקב״ה in the world. As Seforno says, the ideal would be for each of us to be that medium, בלבבי משכן אבנה, but in reality we need some sort of physical structure. The משכן is where G‑d comes close to us.
There is the אהל מועד, the “tent of meeting”. It is where we all come together on the three רגלים, where the קרבנות are offered. The אהל מועד is where we come close to G‑d.
Then there is the מקדש. As many commentators point out, the building of the real (permanent) בית המקדש required the establishment of a Jewish state and monarchy:
And Solomon, in his dedication of the בית המקדש, speaks of its role in the lives of the non-Jew:
The usual explanation is that the מקדש is related to the role of עם ישראל as a whole, to be a (שמות יט:ו) ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש. We are meant to be an example of קדושה and an inspiration for the whole world:
The מקדש is the place from which we go out and spread the connection that we have established with G‑d.
And it is a truism that in order to be noticed, you have to be noticeable. We cannot have an influence on the larger world if no one knows that we exist. It is another fact of human nature that we are attracted to the impressive, to the beautiful. The בית המקדש is designed to impress its viewers:
So we have this dialectic: the very glamour that allows the מקדש to attract the attention of the world and allows us to have an influence on the world, is the glamour and attractiveness that invites the עין הרע that leads to to its destruction. How do we synthesize this, what happy medium is there? I don’t have an answer. It is clear from our history and the three destructions of the מקדש that we as a people have not found the answer either. All we can do is be aware of the danger.
There is a parallel in our own lives as well. Humility is important, but we are too humble and self -effacing then we can never have an influence on others. If we are to be noticed, we must be noticeable. There is a degree of גאוה, of pride, that we need in order to accomplish anything in this life. As the חובת הלבבות says: