Rabbi Oury Cherki
Terumah - The Tabernacle of Moses and the Tabernacle of Aaron
Translated from Hebrew. Published at the Noahide World Center website and in Shabbat B'Shabbato.
The Torah of Moses, which appears in the Torah portion of Teruma (where Aaron is not mentioned), is geared towards a person who is righteous, one who is controlled by the intellect. There is no fear that such a person will commit a sin, but he or she needs instructions on how to get closer to G-d. The Torah of Aaron, on the other hand, which appears in the Torah portion of Tetzaveh (where Moses is not mentioned), assumes that man might commit a sin and that even a sinner is in need of guidance in order to prevent him from developing a desire to sin and to help him to mend his ways.
The Tabernacle of Moses, which appears in Teruma, does not contain any of the implements which are necessary for atonement – the priests, the garments they wore, the Incense Altar and the Basin. The Tabernacle of Aaron, which is described in Tetzaveh, operates on the imagination: "And you shall make the holy garments for your brother Aaron, for glory and beauty" [Exodus 28:2]. And these garments impact the soul.
The Tabernacle of Moses was built supported by contributions from the people, without any need for a direct command. However, the money for the Tabernacle of Aaron was raised in response to a direct command. According to Moses' Torah, mankind is inherently good, and there is no doubt that the people will want to contribute. Aaron's Torah assumes that mankind is weak, and a command is necessary to make sure that all the necessary items will be donated.
If the only concept of the Torah to be taught would have been the spiritual model of the Torah of Aaron, we might have thought that sin is unavoidable, and that it is impossible to imagine life without sin. Sin would have become the basis for serving G-d, as is the case in Christianity. And that is why the model of the Tabernacle of Moses is brought first, telling us that it is possible for the intellect to take control, and that it is possible to worship G-d properly without involving the concept of sin.
The proper pedagogical path is to teach that a man is born with the capability of serving G-d without sin, but that if he or she does sin, the situation can be fixed.
In order to bring a sinner closer to G-d, the Torah of Aaron teaches us to descend to the depths of the sin in an attempt to raise it up. This is the path that Aaron followed with respect to the Golden Calf. In general we act according to the Torah of Moses, but a command by a prophet can temporarily suspend a command and allow us to diverge from it, and this is also part of Moses' Torah.
However, today there is no longer any prophecy. Malachi, the last prophet, ends his book with, "Remember the Torah of my servant Moses, which I commanded all of Israel at Horeb – the laws and the decrees." [3:22]. Thus, he makes it clear that in an era when prophecy has been temporarily suspended the Torah of Moses must be observed and not the Torah of Aaron. Who then will act to bring the sinners closer to G-d? The prophet tells us, "Behold, I will send Elijah the Prophet to you before the arrival of the great and awesome day" [3:23]. Prophecy will return before the day of final judgment and all the hearts will move closer together. The sinners will be given an opportunity to mend their ways based on the Torah of Aaron, so that they will then be able to stand up for judgment.
Now, in the era of redemption, we have once again begun to return to the Torah of Aaron through the teachings of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook. He writes: "Behold, I can see the light of Elijah rising up." The Torah of the time of redemption shows how to "bring back the hearts of the fathers to the sons and the hearts of the sons to the fathers" [Malachi 3:24].