|The Mishkan Altar - A Virtual Gan Eden
Published: Monday, February 17, 2020 08:21:51 PM
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“G‑d tells Moshe, you must make the Altar of hollow planks of wood…” (Shemot 27:8) This Altar was situated in the Courtyard, outside the Mishkan itself. This wooden Altar was a hollow structure that was filled up with earth each time the Mishkan was set up.
Why did G‑d command that the Altar of Atonement should be filled up with earth? The Yerushalmi Nazir 7 and the Bereshis Rabba 14 state that G‑d created Adam out of the very earth taken from the future sight of the Altar. What is the meaning of this profound teaching? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the meaning is that Atonement and Tshuva is an intrinsic aspect of our DNA (Divine Natural Ability) going back to the first human being.
This insightful idea is also alluded to by the fact that the Altar was filled with ADAMA, for the name of the original human being, ADAM, also means Earth. Kabbalistically, just as humanity was formed from Altar-Earth, the Altar was constructed out of the very humanity for which it was built to atone.
Thus, when Adam was banished from Gan Eden, the Torah says that he was sent “to work the EARTH from which he was taken” (Bereshis 3:23). We cultivate the earth to grow the food that keeps us alive, to produce the clothing that protects our bodies, and to build the homes that shelter and protect us from harm.
When we do all this in order to devote ourselves to Torah and Mitzvot, we elevate and sanctify the earth. This is a way to rectify the sin of Adam and to return symbolically to Gan Eden.