By Rabbi Jesse Horn – Yeshivat haKotel
There seems to be a significant contradiction between two of the Ramban’s central themes on Sefer Shmot. Firstly, the Ramban (introduction to Shmot) summarizes Sefer Shmot as a book of “Galut and Ge’ula,” beginning with Bnei Yisrael’s enslavement and concluding with Hashem dwelling among them in the Mishkan. Accordingly, the Mishkan was the pinnacle, and what the entire Sefer built towards; Hashem’s constant presence residing with Bnei Yisrael.
Yet the Ramban (introduction to chapter 25) also ascertains that the Mishkan accomplished another significant role. It continued the Har Sinai experience. By housing the Shachena (divine presence) that Bnei Yisrael encountered at Har Sinai, it attempting to replicate their ability to connect to it. This perspective implies that Har Sinai was the zenith, with the Mishkan merely attempting to retain as much of the Har Sinai occurrence as it can. From this perspective, the Mishkan seems to be an after thought.
Simply stated, which was more important, Har Sinai or the Mishkan?
Perhaps the Ramban believes that the Mishkan is in fact the climax of the Sefer, however the Mishkan attempting to retain Har Sinai’s interaction with the divine does not reduce it to being secondary. To the contrary, sustaining the Shachena seen at Har Sinai gives it its important. The miracles that took place at Har Sinai, although unparalleled in magnitude (Rambam Yisoday HaTorah 8:1-3), were a one-time experience. The Mishkan’s role of continuing Har Sinai gives it a more central role; one that is permanent and enduring. Apparently, because the Mishkan plays a daily role housing the Shachena, it is seen as the Ge’ula that Sefer Shmot builds towards.
It is important to realize tremendous one-time-events have their place, but fall short to the impact that consistency has.