Parshas Pikudei presents an accounting of all the materials that went into the construction of the Mishkan-the portable Sanctuary in the desert. It also details all of the components of the Mishkan and mentions how the two chief architects, Betzalel and Ahaliav, executed everything “as G‑d commanded Moses.”

The phrase “as G‑d commanded Moses” is mentioned repeatedly in this week’s parsha. In fact, nowhere else do we have that expression repeated so many times.

This phenomenon is noted by the Jerusalem Talmud (Berachos 4:3 and Ta’anis 2:2) which counts 18 references to the architects’ compliance with G‑d’s command to Moses in this parsha and then explains that it is a hidden reference to Judaism’s most important prayer: the Amidah-Standing Prayer or Shemoneh Esrei-18. (It is called Amidah because one must recite this prayer standing. It is called Shemoneh Esrei, which means 18, on account of its original 18 benedictions.  Although a 19th blessing was added later, 18 remained its official title.)

The Talmud (both the Babylonian in Berachos 28b as well as in the Jerusalem Talmud, cited above) discusses several reasons why the benedictions for this central prayer numbered 18:

One reason is that G‑d’s name is mentioned 18 times in Psalm 29. (A Psalm expressing King David’s praises to G‑d.)

Another opinion bases it on the fact that King David recited 18 Psalms before he used the expression “May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You” (a verse that captures the essence of prayer).

A third opinion is that it corresponds to the 18 time the Patriarchs are mentioned in the Torah. (According to one opinion, the Patriarchs were the first ones to institute the daily prayers. Hence it is fitting that the daily prayer should be connected to the Patriarchs.)

A fourth view is that it corresponds to the 18 times G‑d’s name is mentioned in the Shema.

Yet another view is that it corresponds to the 18 vertebrae in the human body. (When one prays the entire person has to be involved. When we bend our bodies in prayer the vertebrae show.)

A Sixth View

The Jerusalem Talmud cites yet a sixth view that the Shemoneh Esrei has 18 blessings. The Jerusalem Talmud says it corresponds to the 18 times the expression “as G‑d commanded” is mentioned in this week’s parsha. However the Jerusalem Talmud adds the caveat that it refers only to those expressions which appear after the mention of the deputy architect of the Mishkan, Ahaliav. In other words, the first mention of “as G‑d commanded Moses” written in connection with Betzalel, the chief architect, is not to be counted.

The obvious question here is: what is the connection between the Shemoneh Esrei and the 18 times G‑d’s command to Moses is mentioned with respect to the construction of the Mishkan?

The classic commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud, Korban Ha’eidah, alludes to this question and explains that the institution of prayer, specifically the Shemoneh Esrei, took the place of the daily sacrifices after destruction of the Temple. It is thus fitting that the allusion to prayer should be found in the Torah’s description of the Sanctuary, the location where sacrifices were offered.

This explanation however leaves us with several questions:

First, why would the prayer be hinted at in the context of the Mishkan and not in the context of the sacrifices themselves?

Second, why would we start counting the verses “as G‑d commanded Moses” only after Ahaliav is mentioned?

Third, the Jerusalem Talmud refers to the account of the construction of the Mishkan in this week’s parsha as a “Mishkan sheni-the second Mishkan.” Obviously, it means the Torah’s second account of the Mishkan. The first account was recorded in the parsha Terumah, which we read four weeks ago, and the second version of the Mishkan is in this week’s parsha. Why does the Jerusalem Talmud characterize this as the “Second Mishkan?” It should have said that it was a repetition of the Mishkan saga, but not the “Second Mishkan,” which makes it sound like there were two.

We can understand why the Tablets Moses received after he had shattered the first Tablets are described as “the second Tablets.” They were, in fact, a second set of Tablets. By contrast, the account of the Mishkan in Pikudei is the same Mishkan discussed in the earlier parsha.

To answer these questions it is important to understand the difference between this week’s version of the construction of the Mishkan and the first version, which recorded G‑d’s original instruction concerning the Mishkan. (See Likkutei Sichos, volume 1. p. 195ff for the Rebbe’s answer to these questions. What follows is partially based on the discussion there.)

It would seem that the difference between the Mishkan discussed in Terumah and the Mishkan in our Parshah is that the Mishkan discussed in Terumah signifies the theoretical aspects of construction of a Sanctuary for G‑d. Parshas Pikudei, however, deals with the physical implementation of the plan for the Mishkan. From that perspective we are dealing with the same Mishkan; first in theory, then in reality. But this hardly justifies calling the structure in this week’s parsha as “the Second Mishkan.”

Moreover, in the opening verse of this parsha the Torah actually uses the word Mishkan twice. This would appear to support the Jerusalem Talmud’s assertion that there were two Mishkans.

This leads us to the conclusion that, in fact, the two versions reflect two different dimensions of the Mishkan. The first version is the heavenly Mishkan; the Mishkan the way it exists in the spiritual realms. The second version, in Pikudei, is the Mishkan that we have here on Earth. This parallels our Sages’ description of a heavenly Beis Hamikdash-Holy Temple that corresponds to the earthly one.

Thus, when the Jerusalem Talmud refers to the version of the construction of the Mishkan in this week’s Parsha as the “Second Mishkan” it is indeed saying that there are two Mishkans: one in heaven and the other one down here on earth.

We can now understand why the Jerusalem Talmud connects the Shemoneh Esrei with the second Mishkan.

Why Pray Every Day?

There is a well-known question about prayer in general and the Shemoneh Esrei in particular. Why would we ask G‑d for our needs if on Rosh Hashanah G‑d already decreed what we are going to have for the entire year?

We are taught that while it is true that on Rosh Hashanah the blessings that were allocated for us for the coming year have indeed already materialized, they have done so only in a higher form in a higher world. Our daily prayers are required to draw these blessings down into our realm. In other worlds, the blessings we possess on Rosh Hashanah are of the first variety. Our prayer is needed to create the second version of blessing, the one that manifests itself in the physical world and that we can see with our eyes of flesh.

The hint of the prayer that occurs in the account of the Mishkan’s construction is not just because the Mishkan was necessary for the sacrifices that prayer came to replace, but because it validates the prayer exercise.  It’s what translates the heavenly into the earthly.

This also explains why the Jerusalem Talmud includes only those phrases “as G‑d commanded Moses” that follow the mention of Ahaliav, the second in command.

What is so special about Ahaliav?

One way of looking at his role is that he was second to Betzalel. One could ask why was it necessary for Betzalel to have a deputy? Moreover, as there were many deputies that assisted Betzalel, why then did the Torah single out only one for honorable mention?

One possible answer is that Betzalael and Ahaliav were dealing with two different structures. Betzalel, whose very name means “in G‑d’s shadow,” saw the Mishkan the way it was built in the heavenly spheres. Ahaliav was the one who saw from an earthly perspective the way the Mishkan should be constructed in the here and now. The two architects go on to synthesize their visions: the earthly design of Ahaliav would merge with Betzalel’s celestial design.

Thus, the Mishkan the Torah speaks of here is, indeed, the second one. Likewise Ahaliav is the second architect and theShemoneh Esrei represents the second concretized version of G‑d’s blessings.

Concrete Redemption

The focus on the “second” aspects of the Mishkan, Ahaliav and the Shemoneh Esrei, relates to the final Redemption as well.

In the special kedusha prayer we recite on Shabbos and the Jewish Holidays, we ask G‑d to redeem us “a second time.” This is based on the verse (Yeshayahu 11:11): “It shall be on that day that the L-rd will once again [literally: “a second time”] show His hand to acquire the remnant of His people…” The simple meaning of the word “second” here is to compare the final Redemption to the exodus from Egypt. On a deeper level, however, the reference to a “second” Redemption alludes to the notion that the Redemption dynamic exists on two planes: It is generated in the spiritual realms and then it descends to the earthly realm. It further emphasizes that we want and need to experience the Redemption in its earthly and concrete form.

We are living in unique times so close to the Final Redemption. The Rebbe stated that the Redemption is situated right outside on our doorstep. All we have to do is reach out and bring it in to our lives. The Redemption dynamic is palpable. Our task is, as the Rebbe also added, “to open our eyes” to this reality so that it enters into our consciousness as well.

There is another application of the “second Mishkan” concept to our time. There are two scenarios for the way the Third Temple will be built. According to Rambam it will be built by the Jewish people under the direction of Moshiach. According to Rashi it will descend from Heaven fully fabricated. The Rebbe reconciled these two versions by stating that the Heavenly Beis Hamikdash will descend and become integrated with our earthly Temple. The two dimensions will merge for a most perfect Sanctuary that will last forever.