TEMPLE AND TABERNACLE
The Tabernacle, which is completed and erected in this week’s portion, was essentially a simple structure. King Solomon’s Temple, built 480 years later was a much more lavish and ornate building.
Which one was superior?
One would expect that the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem should top the bill. Yet, on closer examination, this is not necessarily the case.
When donations were needed to build the Tabernacle the gifts came so readily that more than enough was provided in a short time and the people had to be told to stop giving. By contrast King Solomon had to raise a levy on the people in order to produce the resources that were necessary.
“King Solomon conscripted labourers from all Israel – thirty thousand men. He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labour. Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stone-cutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foreman who supervised the project and directed the workmen.” (I Kings 5: 27-30)
Volunteers from the Children of Israel contributed their talents in spinning, weaving, metalworking etc. in constructing the Tabernacle. All of this took place under the direction of Betzalel, the principal architect, who was imbued with the Divine spirit.
By contrast, in Solomon’s Temple, most of the construction work was undertaken by labourers from Tyre. Moreover, as the 16th century commentator Ovadia Sforno points out, (commentary to Shemot 36:21) the building was in need of regular, almost annual repairs.
Although G-d’s presence, the Shechina, came to rest on both the Tabernacle and the Temple, it was lost from the Temple, when it was destroyed.
The Tabernacle never fell into enemy hands. It is significant, says Sforno, that no Tabernacle vessel is listed as part of the booty of the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezer.
The Tabernacle, built with the love and generosity of newly-liberated slaves, acquired a spiritual and physical permanence that could not be matched by the Temple however splendid a building it came to be.