The Mishkan and Marriage

Vayehi b’yom kalos Moshe l’hakim es haMishkan (Bamidbar 7:1)

Parashas Naso introduces the offerings of the leaders of the Shevatim by recording that after all the hard work and preparation, the long-awaited day of the completion of the Mishkan finally arrived. Rashi writes that the word kalos — completed — is related to the word kallah — a bride, for on the day that Moshe erected the Mishkan and anointed its vessels to sanctify them for use, the Jewish people were like a kallah going to the chuppah.

Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l, and Harav Elazar Menachem Mann Shach, zt”l, point out that it is strange that the Hebrew word for a bride is associated with the word meaning “finished.” As we are accustomed to viewing marriage as a time for a fresh start, why is it described as an ending?

Rav Kamenetsky and Rav Shach explain that in life every experience that ends presents us with an opportunity to move forward to a new phase. This theme is repeatedly manifested in our formative years, as a child who finishes learning the Hebrew alphabet progresses to kriah, after which he moves on to a Chumash seudah that marks the beginning of actual learning. The study of Chumash eventually yields to an emphasis on Mishnayos, which in turn is eventually supplanted by a focus on Gemara.

At no stage does the budding scholar remain stagnant, for the conclusion of each subject lays the foundation to commence the study of new material. This system is a metaphor for life, in which every ending is a new beginning, and every period that comes to a close gives us the opportunity to move on to greater challenges.

Harav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, adds that later in life, when a boy finishes a masechta, he celebrates his accomplishment by making a siyum, during which he asks Hashem, “Just as You helped me finish this masechta, so too may You help me begin other tractates and complete them.” Even if he feels that he didn’t fully grasp the material, it is still worthwhile to make a siyum to express appreciation for the ability to start anew, for life is about using the termination of one project as an opportunity to commence another.

Applying this concept to marriage, a woman becomes a kallah through the process of dating and engagement, but Harav Avrohom Yaakov Pam, zt”l, used to warn his students that courtship should not end on one’s wedding day. As a bride goes to the chuppah and concludes her days as a single girl, she is also entering a new phase as a wife, as a new relationship starts to develop on an even deeper level.

In this sense, a kallah is a perfect analogy for the completion of the Mishkan, which represented the culmination of the communal efforts of the Jewish people. When Moshe finally assembled the Mishkan and signaled its completion, their excitement was palpable. At the same time, they also recognized that as one stage in their relationship with Hashem was coming to a close, the next — even higher — stage was about to begin, as the Mishkan was not an end unto itself but rather a means to enable the Shechinah to dwell in our midst, where we could serve Him and draw even closer to Him.

Q: From which verse in Parashas Naso can we derive that a Jewish male becomes responsible for his actions at the age of 13?

A: Commenting on the Mishnah’s statement that a 13-year-old boy is obligated in mitzvos, the Bartenura writes that this is derived from a verse in Parashas Naso (5:6) that discusses an ish — man — who sins by stealing and swearing falsely (Rashi) and is required to make restitution. Since the Torah earlier uses the term ish to refer to Levi (Bereishis 34:25) at a time when he was 13, we may derive that the ish mentioned here as being responsible for his actions also applies once a person turns 13. However, the Rosh maintains that the age at which a boy becomes bar mitzvah is a halachah l’Moshe miSinai — a law that Hashem orally communicated to Moshe at Har Sinai.

Q: May an unmarried Kohen recite the Birkas Kohanim?

A: The Mordechai writes that a Kohen who isn’t married should not say the Birkas Kohanim. The Gemara in Yevamos (62b) teaches that an unmarried person lacks joy, and it is appropriate for one giving a blessing to be happy.

The Darkei Moshe questions this opinion in light of the law that a minor may not say the Birkas Kohanim. It should be unnecessary to exempt a minor since he is already exempt for the reason that a minor cannot get married. He answers regarding Birkas Kohanim that a minor does not yet feel sad over the fact that he is unmarried and therefore needs his own unique exemption.

The Rashba writes that he never heard this opinion from any of his teachers or saw it in any work. Although it may have roots in Aggadic teachings, its omission from the Gemara means that this is not normative law. As a matter of practical law, the Shulchan Aruch rules that an unmarried Kohen should say Birkas Kohanim. The Rema quotes the dissenting opinion but writes that the practice is to say it, although he adds that it is permitted to leave the synagogue before the Kohanim are called. The Mishnah Berurah explains that although an unmarried Kohen may lack joy, he is still not sad and can therefore bless.

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his divrei Torah weekly, please email