Most Haftarot are chosen to amplify a theme found in the Torah reading, particularly that of Parashat Terumah. After reading the instructions for building the Mishkan in the Torah reading, we read a section of Sefer Melachim that describes Shlomo’s building of the Beit HaMikdash. This Haftarah is a perfect choice; the Mishkan of the desert and the Beit HaMikdash in Yerushalayim are functionally the same, albeit one temporary and one permanent. And since we are studying Sefer Melachim at Torah Academy of Bergen County this year, the Haftarah feels even more relevant to us.
Yet, some observe that this close connection between the Torah reading and the Haftarah also highlights some critical differences. In a well-known Derashah, Rav Dr. Norman Lamm highlights some of these differences:
The construction of the Mishkan is a popular project to which virtually the entire nation contributes enthusiastically. Men and women contribute everything from the materials to the necessary skills and labor. The construction of the Beit HaMikdash, however, is not done by the Jewish people themselves; rather, laborers are hired from Tyre.
The initiation of the project to build the Mishkan elicits unbridled generosity from the Jewish people in the desert. Hashem instructs Moshe to collect donations from anyone, “Asher Yidevenu Libo,” “who feels generous of spirit” (Shemot 25:2). We discover later that this call for donations is met so well that Moshe has to tell the people to stop bringing them in. The funding of the construction of the Beit HaMikdash, however, requires Shlomo to levy heavy taxes upon the people.
Why were these two construction efforts so different in character? Why was there more enthusiasm and participation for the Mishkan than for the Beit HaMikdash?
I’d like to suggest that the differences between these construction projects can be understood with the following observation: the building of the Mishkan yields a direct, immediate result, while the building of the Beit HaMikdash does not. With the completion of the Mishkan in the middle of the Jewish camp in the desert, each Jewish person is within the imminence of Hashem. Each Jewish person finds him or herself within the immediate orbit of the Divine presence. They have close, intimate access to the influence of Hashem as a camp that encircles the Mishkan. Seeing this reality naturally brings out more enthusiasm and participation from the people knowing the immediate reward for their efforts.
On the other hand, although Hashem immediately dwells in the Beit HaMikdash upon its completion and is found in the midst of the people, individual Jews must engage in Aliyah to Yerushalayim to be within the immediate presence of Hashem. When the Jewish people were not firmly ensconced in the close proximity of a camp but were dispersed throughout the land of Israel, the building of the Beit HaMikdash was not the end of the process as in the desert. A Jewish person still needed to make the effort to journey to Har Hashem to feel a more immediate sense of being within the Divine presence. Perhaps it was harder for the people in the time of Shlomo HaMelech to feel a greater sense of enthusiasm, generosity, and participation for a project situated far away whose impact would not be felt as immediately.
Clearly, the building of the Mishkan in the desert is a one-time project that will never be replicated. This is why the Beit HaMikdash instead, a project we hope to embark on very soon, serves as a better model for the challenges we face right now. Jews my age and younger who grew up in New Jersey and New York were born into a community that has many of the institutions critical for Jewish life already built—Shuls, Yeshivot, Eiruvin, Mikvaot, and the like. Our parents and grandparents struggled to rebuild in this country, while we simply stand on their shoulders. What we learn from the model of the Beit HaMikdash is that because we did not build these institutions ourselves, we need to make an extra effort to find a way to bring ourselves closer to them. Just as the Jewish people in the time of Shlomo are challenged to bring themselves closer to the Beit HaMikdash, we too must find ways to maximize our connection to the institutions around us and not take them for granted. Our own TABC offers so many ways to learn and connect with Rebbeim and teachers outside of the classroom. Our Shul Rabbis are eager to find more ways to connect with their congregants. It’s up to each and every one of us to not waste our gifts but rather utilize them to bring us closer to the Divine presence.