Early one Shabbat morning, I was disturbed by my response to some inter-personal strife at work.
It’s Shabbat P’kudei. Although I haven’t read the parshah yet, I was reviewing some things about the Mishkan. I didn’t want to start reading the chumash until my mind was more settled.
I closed my eyes to pray, but found that I was visualizing myself standing outside the Mishkan. I’ve often wanted to see it for real, and wondered if my visualizations of it are “psychic travels” there, too.
I hesitated to enter, until I heard the thought: “You’re a priest. You may enter.” I entered. I didn’t “see myself” entering; rather, my viewpoint changed, just as it would if I were entering physically. I saw the altar and the kiyor. In some illustrations, the kiyor is directly between the altar and entrance to the tent. My opinion is that it was “off-center,” perhaps just to the left/south of the entrance.
I moved past the altar and started to enter the Tent. I was told (in thought), “You must wash your hands and feet.” I realized that while the later kiyor – in the Temple – had faucets to turn the waterflow on and off, nothing like that is mentioned for the kiyor in the Mishkan. I first saw myself putting my hands and feet into the kiyor, but realized that the directions couldn’t have meant that – the water would become dirty from the feet. So, I imagined that a cup was used to draw water from the kiyor and pour it over the hands and feet – first left, then right.
Then, I entered into the Heichal (the Tent). The first thing that struck me was the utter spiritual peace and silence inside. It was much like I’ve felt in places where only meditation or some other spiritual practice in which all thoughts turn to G-d, (without any secular thoughts or conversation) took place. It was pervasive. I felt my upset being removed.
I looked to my left, towards the Menorah. It provided a dim light in the room – or, at least, a light that’s dimmer than I’m used to from overhead electric bulbs. I wondered, as I often have, how they kept the Menorah’s flames from igniting the curtains that were behind and/or over it. It must have been some distance into the center of the room, away from the wall/curtain.
To my right was the Bread-Table. I first thought of 12 loaves, but then saw 2. I could sense the aroma of the fresh bread.
In front of me was the Golden Incense altar. I wondered how much heat it had really generated in this enclosed space. I was given a handful of incense and told that I could offer it. I put it on the coals, and smelled the sweet odor. I thought to myself – as I have at other times – that the incense was really more for its effect on the consciousness and mood of the priest, than for any effect on G-d.
I knew that beyond the curtain in front of me was the Aron and the tablets, but I didn’t do more than acknowledge it. I didn’t enter the Holy of Holies — the Inner Room — itself.
Then, I found myself really feeling G-d’s Presence, and talking with G-d. I began to talk about my problem, but realized that I didn’t have to. G-d was so comforting; the Presence was so loving, so sweet and full of Light. There was no need to disturb the experience, or sully the Presence, with my problems and feelings.
I opened my eyes without going through a step-by-step withdrawal from the Mishkan. Next time, though, I will.
I noticed how much better I felt. I was very quiet and peaceful inside myself. (and still was, over a ½ hour later).
I began to think of 2 “guided meditations” I could do with groups/classes:
1 – people imagine themselves watching the priest go through the offering process and then enter the Tent.
2 – people imagine themselves as the priest, as I’d just done, entering the Tent and experiencing G-d themselves.
I thought to myself: the soul of every Jew is a priest in the Heichal, talking to G-d. It becomes obscured through the impurities that we take upon ourselves in life – the negative emotions, etc. The kohanim were assigned the special task of always keeping this pure and fresh. By watching and paying attention as the priest went through the process of offering and entering the Tent, the individual Israelite was linked with the priest, and entered G-d’s Presence with him.
Perhaps the whole point of the priesthood was to allow the Israelites to enter G-d’s presence mentally and spiritually, by imagining what the priest was doing.
And the job of the Israelites has always been to share this with all Creation.
 Mishkan design c. 2008 by Rabbi Eli Mallon