By Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh
"And let them make a Tabernacle for me, and I will dwell within them" [Shemot 25:8]. The Ramban discusses this verse. "The hidden meaning of the Tabernacle is that the glory which rested on Mount Sinai is the same as the glory which rests on the Tabernacle, as is written, 'And the glory of G-d rested on Mount Sinai' [24:16]. With respect to the Tabernacle, it is written, 'the glory of G-d filled the Tabernacle' [40:35]. And in the Tabernacle the nation of Yisrael always kept the glory that they saw at Mount Sinai. One who looks carefully at these passages will understand the secrets of the Tabernacle and the Temple."
Similarly, at Sinai, "Moshe approached the thick cloud where G-d was" [20:18]. In the Tabernacle, "The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting" [40:34]. Thus, the events at Mount Sinai are not limited to just giving the Torah but rather involve the revelation of the Shechina in the entire world.
"And they heard the sound of G-d walking in the Garden" [Bereishit 3:8]. "The essence of the Shechina was down below. When Adam sinned, the Shechina removed itself and went to the first 'Rakiya,' the lowest level of heaven (out of seven). When Kayin sinned, it moved further away, to the second Rakiya... At the time of Avraham Egypt returned it to the sixth level. At the same time, seven righteous men stood up. Avraham stood up and brought the Shechina back to the sixth level... Moshe stood up and brought it from the highest level all the way back to the bottom." Thus, the descent of the Shechina on Mount Sinai was not merely in order to give the Torah but was mainly to satisfy the desire of the Master of the World – "The Holy One, Blessed be He, developed a desire to have the Shechina dwell down below." "Is there any type of sale where the owner is sold too, together with the merchandise? The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: I sold my Torah to you, it is as if at the same time – as it were – I Myself was sold too, as is written, 'Let them take a contribution' [Shemot 25:2]. The verse can be read as 'take Me as a contribution,' as if the word written was 'oti.'
The Torah portion of Tetzaveh ends with the description of the Altar of the incense. This is the final step in the process of the revelation of the Shechina which started with the momentous events at Sinai and ended in the Tabernacle, with the offering of the incense. The sages have taught us that the final stage in the descent of the Shechina was burning the incense. The Marahal explains that "ketoret" – incense – is related to the Aramaic word "kitra" – to make a link. When we link what is below to what is above, when the incense rises upwards, the Shechina descends.
This gives a new depth to the well-known passage in the Talmud, "Where does Haman appear in the Torah? It is written, 'Did you partake from the tree which I forbid?' ('hamin ha'etz') [Bereishit 3:11]. Where does Mordechai appear in the Torah? It is written, 'mor dror' [Shemot 30:23] – a spice – which is translated as 'Merie Dachia' (similar to Mordechai)."
It is written in the Midrash: "When the Holy One, Blessed be He, created the world, he developed a desire to have a dwelling place down below. He created Adam, and commanded him, 'From the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil do not eat' [Bereishit 2:17]. When he violated this prohibition, G-d said to Adam, 'I wanted to have a dwelling-place down below, and I gave you one command which you did not obey. So the Shechina removed itself and went up to the first rakiya... Moshe returned it to the earth, as is written, 'And G-d descended to Mount Sinai' [Shemot 19:20]."
The serpent caused the Shechina to remove itself, and we have seen in the writing of the ARI, on the verse, "from the root of a snake will emerge a tzefa, (a viper)" [Yeshayahu 14:29]. The word "tzefa" is the same numerical value as Amalek. That is the role of Amalek – to cause the Shechina to leave. The sages note that Haman's intention was to block the construction of the Temple, the place where the Shechina dwells down below. But Mordechai interfered with the plan and killed Haman. And that is why Haman, who fought against the presence of the Shechina down below, is hinted at by the phrase, "hamin ha'etz," a hint of the tree with which Adam sinned, leading to the removal of the Shechina. And Mordechai, who destroyed Haman, is hinted at in a name derived from the incense, which was the instrument that helped to bring the Shechina back.