• Gabbai

Shemini – Actualizing Potential

A curious point is raised by Rabbi Jesse Horn, who noticed that in three distinct places in the Torah the inaugural day of the Mishkan is addressed. The first appears in the last chapter of the book of Exodus. This is where we would most expect it, as the instructions for, and the construction of, the Mishkan are detailed in the second half of Exodus. When the building was complete, probably just as Moses was brushing the dust off his hands, a cloud descended to cover the Mishkan, reflecting the Divine presence. This presence was so intense that Moses could not enter the Mishkan. This manifestation appears to be the punchline of the narrative, as no other details of the inaugural day are mentioned in this context.

The next place the Mishkan’s inauguration is mentioned is in our reading of Shemini, in Leviticus. The ceremonies began seven days earlier, and the eighth day was the culmination, with Aaron assuming his duties as High Priest. A series of sacrifices were prescribed for this day, and the Torah relates that Aaron and his sons performed all their duties just as Moses instructed. Aaron concluded the service and came out to bless the people. He then entered again, this time with Moses, and they both subsequently came out and blessed the people, after which God’s presence became apparent to the entire nation.

The third and final place where this is discussed is in the book of Numbers, detailing the gifts of the tribal leaders upon the inauguration of the Mishkan. Rabbi Horn points out that not only is this narrative spread out over three different places, in three separate books of the Torah, these three narratives are entirely different and there are no overlaps. Each time the Torah addresses the opening day of the Mishkan it has an entirely different focus.

Rabbi Horn suggests that each narrative comes to support the theme of the book in which it appears. The Book of Exodus focuses on the nation of Israel as they shift from slavery to free people. The first half of the book covers the servitude and the second ha