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A Brief History of Mishkan Shiloh

Sponsored by Israel and Gaby Kopel and their children Yosef Chaim, Yitzhak Yehoshua, and Shmuel David, in loving memory of their grandmother, Chana bat Tzvi Hersh, whose Yartzeit was on the 24th of Menachem Av

Parsha Halacha – Parshat Re’eh

Shabbat Mevarchim Chodesh

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The Torah portion of Re’eh includes the instruction to build permanent houses for worshipping G-d upon the Jewish people’s entering the land of Israel, as the verse says, “But only to the place which the L-rd your G-d shall choose from all your tribes, to set His Name there; you shall inquire after His dwelling and come there. And there you shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes… For you have not yet come to the resting place or to the inheritance, which the L-rd, your G-d, is giving you… And it will be, that the place the L-rd, your G-d, will choose in which to establish His Name, there you shall bring all that I am commanding you: Your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices… Beware, lest you offer up your burnt offerings any place you see. But only in the place the L-rd will choose in one of your tribes; there you shall offer up your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.”[1]
Shiloh and Yerushalayim
Rashi explains that these verses refer both to the Mishkan (Sanctuary) in Shiloh as well as to the Bait HaMikdash (Holy Temple) in Yerushalayim.
  • The first verse mentioned above, “you shall inquire after His dwelling,” is referring to the Mishkan in Shiloh which was the first place that could be referred to as a dwelling place for G-d as it was the first Sanctuary that was a fixed structure.[2] (The walls of the Mishkan in the desert were wooden beams which could be assembled and disassembled while the Mishkan in Shiloh had stone walls.[3])
  • The last verse mentioned above, “in the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes,” is referring to the Bait HaMikdash in Yerushalayim. Since we already learned about the Mishkan in Shiloh, this verse must be referring to the next fixed resting place of the Shechinah – the Bait HaMikdash.[4]
  • The middle verse mentioned above, “the resting place or to the inheritance,” alludes to both of these places. Specifically, “the resting place” refers to the Mishkan in Shiloh since it was there that the Divine Presence rested (for some time) after the land of Canaan was conquered, while “the inheritance” refers to the Bait HaMikdash in Yerushalayim as that was the permanent resting place of the Divine Presence (just as an inheritance is permanent).[5]
Eating the Sacrifices around Shilo
The Talmud[6] says that, while the Mishkan was in Shilo, the Jewish people could eat their sacrifices (the sacrifices known as kodashim kalim[7]) in any area from which they could see the Mishkan or even part of the Mishkan. This is different than when the Bait HaMikdash was in Yerushalayim. At that time, one could eat the sacrifices only within the city walls.
It is noteworthy that in the archeological that digs that were recently done around the ancient of Shiloh, many broken clay pots were found on the mountains facing Shiloh. Whereas on the other sides of those same mountains (the sides not facing Shiloh), no such broken pots were found. It would seem that these pots were used to cook the abovementioned sacrifices by the various tribes of Israel who came to the pilgrimage festivals in Shiloh. Since clay pots cannot be kashered (i.e., whatever is absorbed in them can never be extracted), once they are used for sacrificial meat (which cannot be eaten for more than two days or in any other location), they must be broken. As the verse says, “And an earthenware pot in which it was cooked shall be broken.”[8]
Why Was Shiloh Different?
The Talmud gives several reasons for this difference between Shiloh and Jerusalem.[9]
  • Shilo was in the territory of Yosef.[10] Since Yosef overcame the temptation of his eyes (by not sinning with his master’s wife[11]), he merited that people who could see the Mishkan of Shiloh (with their eyes), would be able to eat sacrifices.
  • In addition, by not benefitting from that which did not belong to him (i.e., his master’s wife), he merited the benefit that the sacrifices from his portion could be eaten even in the portions of his (former) enemies – the other tribes – as long as they could see this Mishkan.
    • The Ben Ish Chai explains[12] that while seeking to kill Yosef, the brothers saw him from a distance and conspired to kill him.[13] Thus, their distant vision brought about a catastrophe. Since Yosef was in fact righteous, he merited that when the descendants of those brothers saw his territory from a distance they could eat blessed food there. Thus, the distant vision to Yosef’s land was transformed into a blessing.
    • The Pnei Menachem of Ger explains[14] this last point (that Yosef did not benefit from that which was not his) somewhat differently. As viceroy of Egypt, Yosef oversaw the selling of the Egyptian grain to that part of the world. In that capacity, vast sums of money passed through his hands. Yet Yosef was absolutely honest and kept nothing for himself. Rather, he stored it all in the treasuries of King Pharaoh.[15] As a result of his honesty, the money was blessed, and it remained in storage for the Jewish people to take with them when they left Egypt. The same is true of whoever is totally honest in his financial affairs and never takes anything that is not rightfully his. The evil eye has no effect on such a person’s wealth, and he is protected from all those who wish to harm him. This is the meaning of the Talmudic statement, “Because he did not benefit from that which was not his (the money of Pharaoh), he merited to eat among his enemies (i.e., his wealth was protected from his enemies and from other negative forces).”
The Talmud says[16] that, after the destruction of Shiloh, people who would see the site would sigh over the (unique way that the) sacrifices were eaten there.
Why did the Holiness Spread?
In truth, the holiness of the Bait HaMikdash was greater than the holiness of the Mishkan in Shiloh. As such, it is difficult to understand why the holiness of Shiloh spread out to a larger area (in that certain sacrifices could be eaten any place that could see the Mishkan), whereas the holiness of the Bait HaMikdash did not spread as far (in that such sacrifices could only be eaten within the city walls).
The Shem MiShmuel explains[17] that with the building of the Mishkan in the desert, the Mishkan in Shiloh, and finally the Bait HaMikdash in Yerushalayim, the holiness of G-d was descending deeper and deeper into the physicality of this world. This can be understood from the physical components of these holy buildings:
  • The Mishkan in the desert was made of the inanimate (the silver sockets), the vegetative (the wooden beams), and certain parts of the animal kingdom (the tapestries that were made of wool and leather).
  • The Mishkan in Shiloh was made of the inanimate (the walls were made of stone) and parts of the animal kingdom (the covering consisted of the tapestries of the Mishkan in the desert).
  • The Bait HaMikdash in Yerushalayim was made primarily of the inanimate (stones) and had only some wooden beams as support.
The ultimate goal was for the Divine Presence to rest in the inanimate as this is the lowest aspect of this world, and G-d desires that His revelation reach the lowest aspect of creation. This is the very purpose of creation. It is only in the lowest aspects of this world that the absolute essence of G-d can be revealed. This could not happen immediately as the world was not yet fit for such an intense revelation. Thus, the revelation of the Divine in the Mishkan in the desert and that in Shiloh was actually a preparation for the ultimate revelation which took place in the Bait HaMikdash in Yerushalayim. On the other hand, since the holiness in Shiloh was not as intense, it was more revealed and more accessible and able to spread further and reach any area within the range of vision of the Mishkan.
Why in the Portion of Yosef?
It has been suggested[18] that the reason the tribe of Yosef merited to have the Mishkan built in its territory is because the brothers of Yosef (besides Binyanim) were involved in the sin of selling Yosef. Nevertheless, the ultimate resting place of the Divine Presence was not in Yosef’s portion but rather in the section of Binyamin. This is because Binyamin had no part whatsoever in the sale of Yosef whereas Yosef had a part in that sin since he recounted his brothers’ misdeeds to their father, thus bringing about their enmity.[19]
A Brief History of Shiloh
The Mishkan was built in Shiloh by Yehoshuah after the 14 years it took to conquer and divide the land of Israel.[20] Once it was built, it became even easier for the Jewish people to conquer the remaining strongholds of the Canaanites.[21] It stood for a total of 369 years at which point it was destroyed by the Philistines.[22] As mentioned above, it was a stone structure with the tapestries of the Mishkan built by Moshe.[23] Many events that were of great significance for the Jewish people took place there.
It was there that
  • Yehoshuah oversaw the drawing of the lots to allocate the various portions of the land to the tribes who had not yet received their portion.[24]
  • The Jewish people designated which of their cities would be used as cities of refuge.[25]
  • The Jewish people cast lots and determined which of their cities would be given to the Kohanim and the Levites.[26]
  • The tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe were told they had fulfilled their commitment to fight for the other tribes and so were sent back to the other side of the Jordan to assume their inheritance.[27]
  • The tribes consulted with the Urim VeTumim about the civil war they waged with Binyamin.[28]
  • The tribes decided to rehabilitate the tribe of Binyamin and arrange that the surviving members of Binyamin be permitted to find wives and marry.[29]
  • Chana, the mother of Shmuel, prayed and was answered with the birth of her son Shmuel.[30]
  • Chana brought Shmuel to Eily, the Kohen Gadol, and dedicated him to a life of service to G-d.[31]
  • Shmuel received his first prophecy.[32]
  • Achiyah HaShiloni lived and prophesized.[33]
May we soon merit to the Rebuilding of the Everlasting Holy Temple in Yerushalayim!

[1] Deut. 12:5-14
[2] Maharal of Prague in Gur Aryeh.
[3] See Zevachim 118a that one verse (Samuel I, 1:24) refers to the Mishkan in Shilo as a house and another verse (Psalms, 78:60 and 67) refers to it as a tent. The Talmud therefore concludes that the walls were stone (like a house) whereas the ceiling was made of tapestries (like a tent).
[4] Sifri on the verse. See Ha’amek Netziv
[5] Zevachim, 119a and b
[6] Mishnah in Zevachim 112b as explained in the Gemara, 118b
[7] The sacrifices referred to as kodshei kodashim (the holiest sacrifices) could only be eaten within the boundaries of the Mishkan and, later, the Bait HaMikdash. In addition, only Kohanim could eat these sacrifices. This included the Chatat and Asham – the Sin and Guilt offerings respectively. Whereas the Kodshim Kalim (the sacrifices of lesser holiness) could be eaten by the owners in an expanded area as explained above. This included the Shelamim (peace offering), Todah (thanksgiving offering) and more. See Rambam, Hilchot Ma’aseh HaKorbanot, 11:5.
[8] Levit. 6:21. See Rambam, ibid, 8:11 and 16
[9] Zevachim, ibid
[10] Yehoshuah, 17:6
[11] See Gen. 39:7-20
[12] In Ben Yehoyadah
[13] Gen. 37:18
[14] Penei Menachem, Parshat VaYeshev, 5754, Se’udah Shelishit, D.H. Ita BeGemara, ShebiShiloh Hayu
[15] See Gen. 47:14
[16] Zevachim, ibid
[17] Parshat Re’eh, 5678, D.H. Ki Lo Vatem. The Shem MiShmuel is authored by Rabbi Shmuel Borentein, the second Sochatshover Rebbe. See also Torah Ohr, 43 sides c and d
[18] Dodi Natan on Chumash Bereishit, by Rabbi Natan David Segal, Jerusalem 2012, page 463 based on Bereishit Rabbah 99:1
[19] See Gen. 37:2. See Etz Yosef, Chidushei HaRadal and Yedei Moshe on Bereishit Rabbah, ibid
[20] Yehoshuah 18:1
[21] Rashi on ibid
[22] Zevachim 118b
It is noteworthy that in the archeological digs in the site of ancient Shiloh, they have discovered many burnt storage containers of wheat. Using carbon dating, the archeologists say that the wheat was burnt in (approximately) the year 877 BCE, which is precisely when the Philistines destroyed Shiloh. This wheat may have been stored for sacrificing as the meal offerings (mincha).
[23] Ibid, 54b
[24] Yehoshuah, ibid, 6 and 19:51
[25] Ibid, Chapter 20
[26] Ibid, Chapter 21
[27] Ibid, 22:9
[28] Judges 20:18, 23 and 26 – 28 as explained by Metzudot David
[29] Ibid, Chapter 21 as explained by the Metzudot David
[30] Shmuel I, 1:9-18
[31] Ibid, 24-28
[32] Ibid, Chapter 3
[33] Kings I, Chapter 14

on some level.

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom, and, following that, a Chodesh Tov, and a Ketivah VaChatimah Tovah Leshana Tova UMetukah!
Aryeh Citron

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