Teruma – Respect in a Vacuum

The Moshav Zekeinim presents a conundrum which he doesn’t have an answer to in this week’s Torah portion of Teruma, which discusses the measurements of the Mishkan. “One can ask how did Aharon enter the Mishkan to set up the candles and offer incense? Doesn’t it say in Shabbos 92a that the Leviim were 10 amos tall, (which is taller than 15 feet,) but the height of the mishkan was also 10 amos and besides that he also wore the Turban on his head? It says in Sukkah 7b, ‘A person occupies the space of one amah (18.9-22.7 inches) thus Rebbe Yochanan means that the sukkah must have a circumference of 24 amos, 4 amos by 4 amos for how else could they sit in the Sukkah,’ all the more so how can a person who is 10 amos tall enter a building 10 amos tall with his turban still on? If you would want to say he just bent his head when he entered to do The Service, that doesn’t make sense because if a person would not do such a thing in front of a human king, unless his intent is to bow, all the more so it should not be done before the King Of All Kings, and therefore tzarich iyun, (this needs some introspection.)” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
The Moshav Zekeinim, one of the Baalei Tosfos, can’t understand how Aharon could have entered the Mishkan, because the reality is he would have had to bend down to enter, and not walking upright would have shown a lack of respect to a human king, all the more so to Hashem the King Of All Kings. Bending down is also clearly not a form of bowing, which would have been respectful, and even to do some sort of bow was not what was supposed to be done when coming into the Mishkan ,at least at that point. So that was not a good solution to resolve the issue according to the Moshav Zekeinim; therefore, he was left with a question of what Aharon did.

But why isn’t it possible that Hashem, Who was the architect of the Mishkan and Who is perfect and knew exactly what He was doing when making it, obviously did not make a mistake? So either He didn’t feel it was a lack of respect for Aharon to bend down when walking into the Mishkan, or had forgone the respect He deserved because there was an apparent reason for these dimensions even if we don’t understand what they are. If that is the case, why is the Moshav Zekeinim puzzled?

It must be that there is such a thing as respect in a vacuum. Logic dictates this is the proper way to act, and logic in this case is based on a fortiori, (kal vachomer) which is a plausible way to understand things according to Torah logic. If this is the way to treat human Kings, then all the more so it makes sense that this is the way Hashem should be treated, without any questions.

What’s incredible is that human respect and dignity is taken into account in Divine decisions; but there is a precedent for that as well. Earlier in the Torah portion it discusses the parts and ingredients needed for the building of the Mishkan, one of them being oil to light the menorah. The Moshav Zekeinim asks in the name of the Bechor Shor that the entire list includes what was needed for the building of the Mishkan, even the oil needed to anoint the mishkan was for the mishkan, and the ingredients for the incense were to make the building smell good, but the oil to light the menorah was for the service, not for the building so why was it listed here? The Moshav Zekeinim answers that just as a table and incense is needed for the palace, a fortiori, all the more so from the fact that a human king needs it, so too oil is needed for lighting up the palace. For it is not the way of a king to enter his palace until it is lit. Even though the light isn’t needed [for Hashem], it is still, kavod, honor, to the One On High to have it in his palace, the Mishkan. Therefore, it’s part of the very building, not just part of the service.

We see from here that there are certain things done out of honor for the king, as proper respect in a vacuum due to His status whether needed or not, it is expected to be expected.

Good Shabbos,
 Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder