Shittim Wood in the Mishkan by David Zeidel


This week’s Parsha discusses Hashem’s command to Bnai Yisrael to build a Mishkan.  This Mitzva was Hashem’s way of showing public forgiveness for Bnai Yisrael’s sin of the Golden Calf.  Moshe had continuously begged Hashem to forgive Bnai Yisrael for this particular wrongdoing.  Therefore, Hashem said that all the nations of the world will recognize that He has forgiven Bnai Yisrael by their construction of the Mishkan and His subsequent acceptance of their sacrifices.

In order to build the Mishkan, Bnai Yisrael needed the following fifteen materials (25:3-7): gold, silver, copper, turquoise-dyed wool, purple-dyed wool, scarlet wool, linen, goat hair, red-dyed ram skins, Tachash skins (the Tachash is a Kosher animal that lives in the desert), Shittim wood, oil to light the Menorah, spices or perfumes for the anointment oil, Shoham stones (precious stones), and filling stones.

Where did all of these materials come from?  Many of these articles came from the Egyptians themselves.  After hundreds of Egyptians died in the plagues, they were so happy that Bnai Yisrael were leaving that they gave them gold and silver.  In addition, Bnai Yisrael already owned some of these items since they were shepherds.  The most difficult item to explain, however, is the Shittim wood, as Shittim wood does not grow in the desert.

When Yaakov came down to Egypt (Vayigash 46:5-7) he brought Shittim wood with him because he saw through Ruach Hakodesh that Bnai Yisrael would need it build the Mishkan.  This wood came from trees planted along the Shittim brook.  Yaakov knew that people who drank from this brook, as the people of Sodom did, would become immoral.  By bringing the wood to Egypt, he knew that he would lessen this power of immorality in his descendants, who would use the Shittim wood positively to build the Mishkan.  We learn from Yaakov the importance of preserving for future generations.

Why did Hashem select the Shittim wood above other types of wood?  Because it bears no fruit.  Hashem wanted to show His nation that when they build houses, they should not use the wood of fruit trees since His own palace (the Mishkan) was constructed from the wood of a non-fruit bearing tree.  In addition, Hashem saw that in the future, Bnai Yisrael would be seduced by girls of Moav in a place called Shittim.  He therefore issued the Mitzva of building the Mishkan as an atonement for this sin. 

Yalkut Me'am Loez learns that the word שטים can be seen as the following acrostic: ש stands for שלום, peace; ט for טובה, good; י for ישועה, salvation, and ם for מכילה, forgiveness.  Through the construction of the Mishkan, Hashem made peace with Bnai Yisrael: He gave them good, He granted them salvation from their enemies, and He forgave them for the sin of the Golden Calf.


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