This week’s parsha goes into detail regarding all of the preparations for the construction of the Mishkan, including the necessary materials needed for the building and functioning of the Mishkan. The haftarah as well details the preparations that Shlomo HaMelech made for the construction of the Beit HaMikdash, including the amount of porters, stone masons and administrators that were required for this vast project. And, although the selection is somewhat technical (laying out the blueprint of the entire Mikdash), one of the most enlightening details that Yirmiyahu HaNavi, the editor of Sefer Melachim includes, is the date of the construction itself.
The sixth perek opens with the words; “In the four hundred and eightieth year after B’nai Yisrael’s exodus from Egypt, in the fourth year (of Shlomo’s reign) in the month of ‘Ziv,’ the second month…..he built the Temple for Hashem.” Although this does not seem significant to most, I would suggest that there is much to learn from the dating of the construction. This is perhaps the only time in the books of Nach that we get an idea of the time that lapsed since the exodus. How many of us realize that 440 years went by from when Yehoshua brought Israel into the land until the reign of Shlomo HaMelech! The years of the leadership of the elders and the period of the Shoftim and the reigns of Shauland David, spanned 440 years. It reminds us that David rose to the throne some 400 years after Yehoshua entered the Land of Israel.
These numbers are important, as today we are often impatient with the redemptive process and wonder why all of Israel has not yet recognized Hashem’s hand in our history. But we must understand that Hashem never asked of any leader to build a Beit Mikdash —something He told David HaMelech when He suggested building it. In fact, when we take a careful look at Sefer Shmuel B (perek 7) we will find that God refuses David’s request to build the Holy Temple for the simple reason that it was not yet the time. Hashem explained to David that he, as a great warrior, had a more pressing function: to grant Israel peace and security from the threats of the surrounding enemies. We often state that the Beit HaMikdash could only be built at a time of peace by a man of peace. But God expressed the same idea differently. He told David that there cannot be a Holy Temple until He knows that His children are safe (see Dvarim 12; 10). And to expect that there would be a great religious revival when people are struggling to protect their children from enemy attacks is unfair.
The need to have an era of peace before the Temple could be built was not simply in order to enhance the sanctity of the Mikdash. It was to make sure that the people themselves could focus upon their relationship with the Holy One without worrying whether another attack was imminent. And that required patience. And that required a King David. And that required 440 years.
And, I submit, that is precisely what the Israeli army is doing for us today!
By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler
Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.