(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Bais Medrash (c) Torah.Org

Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2000 13:14:51 -0500 (EST)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Gold in The Mishkan

Ariel Tal in Bais Medrash volume 2 number 10 asks:
<  <  I noticed that in the description of the building of the Mishkan, in
parashat Teruma, the most used material is gold. Why is that? Is there any
symbolic significance to gold? Please give me an answer that is well
thought out and sources would be appreciated.>  >

The most comprehensive symbolic interpretation of the Mishkan can be found
in the Biblical commentaries of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch which I highly
recommend reading. I briefly explain the issue of Gold below.

(Statistically while Gold is the most frequently used item--nevertheless
the most frequently used UTENSIL was the COPPER altar--similarly the ALTAR
utensils were COPPER (Ex 38:3) The LAVER in which the priests washed were
COPPER. Furthermore if we go by weight the SILVER seems to be the most (cf
Ex 38:24-30--100 KIKAR silver vs 29 KIKAR gold and 1775 SHEKEL silver vs
730 SHEKEL gold))

Very, very briefly the temple was made of 4 objects which correspond to 4
states of man (Rav Hirsch gives verses to defend these assocations). We
have (a) GOLD=the INTELLECTUAL aspects of man; (b) SILVER = the SOCIAL
aspects of man; (c) COPPER = the purely PHYSICAL-REPRODUCTIVE aspects of
man (Note just as metals go from GOLD, the best, to COPPER, so to do human
endeavors go from INTELLECTUAL, the highest to pure PHYSICAL). (d) WOOD =
the purely PHYSICAL-EATING-SHELTER aspects of man.

We can now briefly explain certain contrasts: (1) The Candellabrah
symbolizing light and learning was made of GOLD=the INTELLECTUAL while the
Table symbolizing the EATING aspects of man was made of WOOD. (2) The
GOLDEN altar in the holy of holies represented service to G-d by LEARNING
(GOLD) while the COPPER altar represented atonement for REPRODUCTIVE sins
or EVENTS of CHILDBIRTH etc. (3) The Ark containing the TABLETS was made of
WOOD overlayed with GOLD and symbolized that the ten commandments were
given to ordinary Jews who work to sustain a family (WOOD ARK) and manage
to mantain study time every day (OVERLAYED WITH GOLD).

I could go on and on but believe the basic ideas have been outlined. I
again strongly recommend reading Rav Hirsch's beautiful commentary.

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA; Math; Towson Univesity
Moderator Rashi Is Simple, http://www.shamash.org/rashi/