Baraita de-Melekhet Ha-Mishkan

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BARAITA DE-MELEKHET HA-MISHKAN (On the Building of the Tabernacle), ancient collection containing 14 chapters, giving a description of the building of the Tabernacle. The baraita is quoted by early authorities, including Hai Gaon, Rashi, the tosafists, and Naḥmanides, under the name Baraita de-Melekhet ha-Mishkan or Mishnat Melekhet ha-Mishkan. It is written in mishnaic Hebrew and contains practically no later additions. The sages quoted in it are tannaim, the latest of them being Judah ha-Nasi and his contemporaries. Extracts from it are cited in the amoraic literature. It was therefore evidently compiled at the same time as the other beraitot, i.e., after the close of the Mishnah but before that of the Babylonian Talmud. The chapter arrangement is as follows: chapter 1 – the dimensions of the Tabernacle, its boards, their appearance and arrangement; 2 – the curtains of tekhelet (blue), their preparation and the manner in which they were placed over the Tabernacle; 3 – the curtains of goats' skins and the other covers of the Tabernacle – the rams' skins dyed red and the taḥash (unidentified animal mentioned in the Bible) skins; 4 – the weaving of the veil and the screen at the entrance; 5 – the court of the Tabernacle; 6 and 7 – the ark of the covenant and the tablets which it contained; 8 – the table and the showbread; 9 and 10 – the candelabrum, its construction and manner of kindling; 11 – the altar of incense and the altar of burnt offerings; 12 – the laver; 13 – the work of the levites in the Tabernacle and the Israelite encampments in the wilderness; 14 – the clouds of glory. The priestly garments are not treated at all. Extracts from Baraita de-Melekhet ha-Mishkan are included in the Baraita of 49 Rules. Some are even of the opinion that the last two chapters, in which the aggadic element is considerable, originally belonged to the Baraita of 49 Rules (L. Gruenhut, Sefer ha-Likkutim, 2 (1898), 11–13). The baraita was first published in Venice in 1602, and a critical edition was published in 1908 by Meir Ish Shalom (Friedmann), on the basis of various manuscripts and editions, together with an introduction.

[Yitzhak Dov Gilat]

In 1992 Robert Kirschner published a new critical edition of Baraita de-Melekhet ha-Mishkan, based on early medieval manuscripts and genizah fragments, along with an introduction and translation. He raised a number of new issues and reexamined a number of old ones. The genre to which this work belongs is particularly problematic. On the one hand, it is similar to the literature of the Mishnah, in that it is organized by topic. On the other hand, it is closely tied to the biblical description of the Tabernacle and is concerned with the explication of the biblical text. It is somewhat similar to certain extended passages in tannaitic literature which restate biblical events and institutions. As a whole, it must be viewed as a unique synthesis, or hybrid, of these literary forms. Kirschner also reopened the question of its date of composition. He examined the character of the mishnaic Hebrew in which it is composed, the exegetical terminology it employs, the tradents quoted in it, and compared the text of the work to parallel passages found in rabbinic literature. Kirschner's conclusions confirm the view that the Baraita de-Melekhet ha-Mishkan is essentially an authentic work of the tannaitic period.

[Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)]


A. Jellinek (ed.), Beit ha-Midrash, 3 (19382), xxix–xxx; S. Buber, Yeri'ot Shelomo (1896), 15–16; L. Ginzberg (ed.), Ginzei Schechter, 1 (1928), 374–83. add. bibliography: R. Kirschner (ed.), Baraita de-Melekhet ha-Mishkan (1992).