Monday, March 28, 2016

The Four Crowns in the Mishkan

In Teruma and Tetzaveh, Rashi points out that three keilim had gold crowns: the Shulchan, the Golden Mizbei'ach, and the Aron haKodesh.  Rashi says that these three zeirim/crowns correspond to the three crowns mentioned by Rav Shimon in Avos 4:13 the crowns of Royalty, of Kehunah, and of Torah. (Aron, see Rashi 25:11; Shulchan, 25:24; Mizbei'ach, 30:3.)

שמות רבה לד ב
 א"ר שמעון בן יוחאי: ג' כתרים הם, כתר מלכות וכתר כהונה וכתר תורה. כתר מלכות זה השלחן דכתיב בו "זר זהב סביב". כתר כהונה זה המזבח דכתיב בו "זר זהב סביב". וכתר תורה זה הארון דכתיב בו "זר זהב". 

במדבר רבה ד סוף סימנים יג יד 
רבי שמעון אומר שלשה כתרים הם כתר תורה וכתר כהונה וכתר מלכות וכתר  שם טוב עולה על גביהן. מעשה הארון כנגד בעלי תורה ... מעשה השולחן כנגד מלכות בית דוד ... מזבח הזהב כנגד כתר כהונה ... מעשה מנורה כנגד בעלי שם טוב , שנאמר: טוב שם משמן טוב, ולכך היו כל כליה עמה בבגד תכלת שכתר שם טוב על גביהם

 אבות פרק ד משנה יג 
רבי שמעון אומר: שלשה כתרים הם: כתר תורה וכתר כהונה וכתר מלכות. וכתר שם טוב עולה על גביהן.   

(Reb Shimon=Reb Shimon bar Yochai.)

Yoma 72b
אמר רבי יוחנן שלשה זירים הן, של מזבח, ושל ארון ושל שולחן

Rashi says in Yoma there,
שלשה זירין נעשו בכלי הקודש. של מזבח סימן לכתר כהונה ושל ארון סימן לכתר תורה ושל שולחן סימן לכתר מלכות, שהשולחן הוא סימן לעושר מלכים

Many mefarshim ask, where is the fourth crown?  If, as the Mishna in Avos says, the greatest crown is that of Shem Tov, why is that crown not found in the Mishkan?  And now that the Medrash in Bamidbar says that the Menora represents that crown, why did the Menorah not have any crown? If the symbolic crown appeared on the Shulchan, the Mizbei'ach, and the Aron, why did the Menorah have no crown at all?

There are many teirutzim to this question, beginning with the Maharal in Derech Chaim in Avos.  But the ellipsis is obvious and clearly intentional, and so I think it deserves a simple and satisfying answer. (H. L. Mencken once wrote that "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."  Unlike most such answers, I think this one is good.)

A כתר-זיר-crown is a symbol of greatness.  By placing a crown on top of a person or a thing, you express its glory. But it is only a symbol.  What a crown expresses is splendor, a shine.  In fact, the idea of a crown is most fundamentally expressed in Iyov 29:2-3, 
מי יתנני כירחי קדם כימי אלוה ישמרני.  בהלו נרו עלי ראשי לאורו אלך חשך

There, we see the crown as a halo, a ring of light.  That is a true crown, symbolically expressed by placing a gold crown on one's head.  In fact, the words   זהב  and זיב , gold and shine, are basically the same.  We use gold to represent and produce a zohar/ziv.  In the same way, the words זר  and  זוהר are essentially the same- a crown, and a shine.  The purpose of the זר is to represent and embody a זוהר.

But the Menorah did not need a symbolic crown.  The purpose of the Menorah was to cast light, and that light is an inherent crown.  The Menorah, which represented the Keser Shem Tov, did not need a golden crown.  It did not need  זהב, because it had  זיב , and it did not need a זר because it had a  זוהר , and it did not need a קרן של זהב because it had  קרני אור.  It did not need a crown, because it had a Corona. When you have a halo, it doesn't make any sense to wear a crown.

After Mattan Torah, the members of Klal Yisrael had עדיים, crowns of glory, which they had to give back after the Eigel.  But Moshe, as far as I know, did not have any עדי.  He had Karnei Ohr, and he didn't need any עדיים.

One last thing. An answer as simple as this will often evoke the reaction that it is so obvious that everyone knows it without being told.  If,you feel that way, why don't you ask someone the question.  "If" they don't give this answer immediately, tell them to think about it for a while and come back to you with an answer.  Then you'll see how obvious it is.  The only criticism I accept on this answer is that it doesn't offer anything meaningful from a hashkafa or chochma standpoint.  It's just a simple fact.

But one question does remain.  Assuming that the light of the menora is the crown that corresponds to the Keser Shem Tov, why is the menorah and its light the best metaphor for that Keser?  The shulchan, the mizbei'ach, the Aron, are obviously appropriate.  But what is it about the Menorah that corresponds davka with Keser Shem Tov?

My initial response is that without the light of the Menorah/Shem Tov, the other kesarim remain in the dark and lose their significance. What good is a Talmid Chacham without Da'as? Or a Kohen that is unpleasant and unsympathetic? Or a King that walls himself off in his Versailles?  Only when they have a shem tov can their other qualities become an additional crown.

I'm open to suggestions.


  1. I took a very different tack... There are three domains of human experience: eretz, shamayim, and the one between my ears. Perfecting my way in the ways of eretz -- derekh eretz -- involves purification from its dust at the kiyor. In the ways of shamayim -- the mizbeiach. And the world of seikhel, Torah and da'as -- the menorah.

    And each world gives me opportunity for relationship:

    The shulchan's crown is the mastery of our relationships with other people, only possible in olam hazeh. Thus it holds food. The mitzbeiach hazahav's crown is the mastery of our relashonship to heaven, which is why its offerings are ephemeral. And perfection of my own soul is at the aron -- which holds the Torah, is topped by a symbol of ahavas rei'im, from between which Hashem's Presence is perceived.

    I see the mishkan's microcosm as paralleling another microcosm -- the Naran of the human condition.

  2. Beautiful- do you have that on your site at Aspaqlaria? I seem to remember something along those lines there.

    You're so right- it's a very different tack. I was just dealing with the Reb Shimon's correlation of the crowns in his mishna with the crowns on the keilim, and trying to derive a lesson from what he very clearly left out intentionally.

    1. As for your question, I took RSBY's words quite literally... Keser Sheim Tov is a meta-crown, not on the same plane as the others. It is someone who has all three -- is giving like the shulchan, spiritual like the mizbeiach haqetores, and whose ratzon is imbued with Torah, like the aron. The fourth crown circled the top of heichal walls (in the BHMQ) or was replaced by the various hues of the oros techashim (in the Mishkan).


    And in general:

    Note also that the symbols of the mind -- the menorah and the aron -- are each one step above their peers. The menorah is the only un-crowned keli in the heichal, and the aron is the only keli in the qodesh haqadashim. Because G-dliness is not inherent in our angelic side; angels are passive recipients. It's only where body and soul meet, forcing free will and conscious thought, that a person is truly betzelem Elokim.

    1. Right, I knew I had read it on your site. Yasher Koach!

  4. Did you see the Shem m'Shmuel on Titzaveh 5673? (I think he says this same mehaleich in a few places).

    from Chaim

    1. I just at it- thank you. He says a different mehalach except for the nekuda that without the menorah, the others are of no value, like Micha's meta-crown, not because it comprises the others, but because it enlivens them or because it represents a purity of intent that changes the meaning of the others.
      I didn't find it at Hebrewbooks, but if you have Otzar Hachochma, it's on page 405, corresponding to page kuf yud ches in the sefer.

  5. Enjoyed this post, as I do most of your posts. If I may suggest an explanation for the correlation between the menorah and the idea of the crown of a good name:

    The whole point of a name (both in the sense of a specific moniker by which one is known, as well as in the broader sense of one's reputation) is that it creates a connection between a person and the world around him. An individual on their own does not need a name/reputation, it's entire function and relevance is in the sphere of his relationship/influence on other people and on the world around.

    The same is true of the menorah and its light. "לא לאורה אני צריך", Hashem says about the menorah, "אלא עדות היא לכל באי עולם שהשכינה שורה בישראל". So the light of the menorah wasn't to illuminate the space inside the Mishkan/Bais Hamikdash, it was to provide testimony to the outside world, to illuminate them with evidence of the Divine.

    (By the way, the Lubavitcher Rebbe speaks at length about this (the idea of illuminating the "outside") being a central theme of the menorah, and he also relates it to the fact that the Rambam draws the גביעים upside down, with the wide end facing down, as if "pouring out" their contents.)