Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller
The Torah gives us the following instruction for assembly of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) walls. “והבריח התיכון התוך הקרשים מבריח מן הקצה אל הקצה – The center rod passed through the inside of the planks (of the Mishkan walls) bolting them together from end to end.”
This passuk describes a wooden rod passing through three walls of the Mishkan, north, west and south. The Gemara (Shabbos 98A) tells us that they were able to miraculously push this rod through the walls and turn the corners as it was pushed in for a total of 50 cubits (approximately 80 feet). What does this rod symbolize and why the need for its continuity from end to end? Furthermore, Rashi tells us that Yaakov Avinu planted the trees that provided this wood. Why did he do that?
Reb Zalman Sortzkin (Lutzker Rov 1881-1966) explains in his Sefer, Oznayim LaTorah, that the Jewish people have many divisions and the different communities have different temperaments and character. It is exceedingly challenging to unify the Jewish people around a cause and the only unifying element is our Torah. We can travel through time and space and the only common theme we will find in our eternal nation’s history and dispersion is the Torah and its way of life.
When Yaakov Avinu was on his deathbed, he was concerned that his children would go separate ways after his death. They reassured him by saying Shemah Yisroel, affirming that their faith in Hashem would keep them together. Yaakov planned that the Mishkan would be the central focus and unifying factor for the period in the desert and beyond (Yehoshua Chapter 22).
The center rod holding the separate planks together symbolizes this value. The Tree of Life is our Torah and it is the only source of unity for us. Rabbi Saadya Gaon (882-942) writes, “Our nation is only a nation because of its Torah.” The miracle of bending the corners signifies that this unifying force defies the rules of logic and is the secret of our eternity.