Shaya Cohen -


Gold in the Mishkan

Menachem Leibtag shows[1] that the donations of silver were used predominantly for the adanim, the planks that formed the base of the Mishkan. Silver used in  the Mishkan was collected, half a shekel per head, in the census. So the underlying structure in the Mishkan was literally from the contribution of every man among the Jewish people. The rest of the silver formed the perimeter and crown of the Mishkan, so that we can understand that the Mishkan, G-d’s home on earth, was contained within an outer structure provided by all of klal yisroel.[2]

But silver was not used for the keilim of the Mishkan itself. On the contrary; gold and copper were used for the aron, shulchan, menorah, etc., and of the two of them, gold was clearly the holier, the higher material. Our sages tell us that, “Gold was created only so that it should be used for the Mishkan.”

But gold did not come from an imposed tax, nor did it come from any kind of national treasury. On the contrary, “vayavo ha-anashim al hanashim”[3], “The men and women came,” which Rashi understands as “im hanashim”—“the men came with the women.” When volunteering gold jewelry for the building of the Mishkan, men and women came with each other, as Simcha Baer says: as couples. The holiness of building the Mishkan was provided by married couples, volunteering their personal, even intimate jewelry of bracelets, nose-rings, rings, and body ornaments. These couples, by sharing their gold, were in effect sharing their personal connections to the shechinah, to the holiness they had nurtured in their personal relationships with each other. G-d’s home was built by the contribution from married Jewish couples. 

Why is gold singularly important, that we can argue that it alone was created solely for G-d’s home? Gold is the noble metal; a material that does not chemically bind with any other. It, like the shechinah, and like the love within a marriage, can exist within our world in a pure form, without being contaminated by its surroundings. Both gold and marital bliss are a proxy for Hashem’s presence,  where even small quantities of this rare and pure element beautify and adorn any environment.

Isaiah Cox

21 March 2009


[2] Leibtag writes: One viewing the Mishkan form afar, would see the silver coating on the very top of each of the poles of the courtyard [“amudei ha’chatzer”], and on the hooks connecting the curtains to these poles.  This detail created a silver like ‘perimeter’, that may have appeared like a silver crown surrounding the Mishkan. This ‘crown’, just like its ‘base’, was made from this ‘everyone is equal’ donation of the silver from the “machazit ha’shekel”.

[3] Shmos, 35:22

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