Rabbi Orlofsky mentions the body parallels to the Mishkan, like:

  • the rib cage corresponds to the kerashim
  • the head corresponds to the aron
  • the broken luchos correspond to the subconscious mind
  • the whole luchos correspond to the conscious mind

What is the source for the concept and are there other body parallels to the Mishkan?


3 Answers 3


Midrash Hagadol, (Terumah):

אמר לו לא כשם שאתה סבור, אלא עשה אתה כשנברא העולם וכשנתחתם גופך כך עשה המשכן, וכך היה המשכן דומה לגופו של אדם

...And this is the reason why the mishkan resembles the world and the human body.

במשכן היו הקרשים קבועין בתוך האדנים, ובגוף הצלעות קבועות בתוך החוליות,

In the mishkan, there are planks fixed into the sockets; in the body, the ribs are fixed into the vertebrae...

במשכן הקרשים מצופין זהב, ובגוף הצלעות מלובשות בשר,

In the mishkan, the planks are covered in gold; in the body, the ribs are clothed in flesh...

במשכן הבריחים בתוך הקרשים מעמידין אותן, ובגוף אברים וגידים נמתחים ומעמידין את הגוף...

In the mishkan the latches in the planks hold them up, and in the body organs and tendons stretch and squeeze the body.

במשכן יריעות פרושים על הקרשים, ובגוף בשרו שלאדם מכוסה בעור,

In the mishkan, there was tapestries which spread out over the planks; in the body, a person’s flesh is covered with skin...

במשכן היה הקול יוצא מבין שני הכרובים, ובגוף הקול יוצא מבין כנפי הריאה,

In the mishkan, the voice came from between the two cherubs; in the body, the voice comes from between the wings of the lungs...

במשכן יתידות, ובגוף אצבעותיו שלאדם משופין כיתידות, ובעולם וצדיק יסוד עולם (משלי י'), ועתיד הקב"ה לחדש משכן וגוף ועולם, משכן מנין, דכתיב (יחזקאל ל"ז) ונתתי משכני עליהם... (שם כט, וראה שם עוד)

In the mishkan, there were nails; in the body, the fingers are filed like nails; in the world, there is “the Tzaddik" who is the foundation of the world.

(In the future) HKBH will renew His mishkan, the human body, and the world. How do we know this about the mishkan? As it is written, “I will give my mishkan to them.” How do we know that the body will be renewed? As it is written, “when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.” How do we know that the world will be renewed? As it is written, “Behold! I am creating new heavens and a new earth…"


The idea of the similarities and representations of the Mishkan and the human body (amongst other things) is found in Rabbeinu Bachya, Shmos 25 9.

He only mentions certain aspects of vital bodily functions.

I found this site which translates his words:

"The pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of its furnishings." (Ex. 25:9) It is a well known fact that the Tabernacle and its furnishings are physical illustrations designed to help us understand their counterparts in the Celestial Regions. One important factor is the fact that the Tabernacle was divided into three separate areas, each with a different level of sanctity. The innermost part was the site of the Holy Ark with the cherubs on its lid, the Holy of Holies. Beyond the dividing curtain was the Sanctuary known as the "Tent of Meeting". Beyond that was the Courtyard, containing the copper altar on which most sacrifices were offered. The Golden Altar, the Table, and the Menorah … correspond to the world of the planets in our universe…. These three areas correspond to the three parts of the universe the world of the angels, the world of the planets and our world. That most important element in Creation, man himself, is similarly composed of three distinct parts. He represents the very existence on earth known as "olamha'katan", microcosm. Existence on earth is similarly divided into three parts: The "olam ha'dibur", the "world of speech", the creatures who can freely communicate with one another; there is the "olam ha'chayot", the other living creatures; and there is the "olam ha'teva", inanimate nature. The first part of the Tabernacle is the section beyond the dividing curtain containing the Holy Ark, the Tablets and the Cherubs, all of which are interior vessels concealed from inspection. These represent the Divine Chariot. Ezekiel describes this first part in the words: "And the Glory of Israel's G‑d was upon them, above." (Ezekiel 10:19) We also have a verse in Psalms 80:2describing the Shepherd of Israel, as "sitting on the cherubs." This is a reference to the world of the angels, who are tangible, invisible intellectual beings who serve as throne and carrier of G‑d. The corresponding manifestation in our world is the olam ha'dibur, the head, seat of the brain and wisdom. The intellect is perceived as pouring out wisdom to the brain. A truly righteous person serves as a "chariot" - a carrier of G‑d's Presence - as did the patriarchs of old; we can similarly serve as the Chariot by fulfilling the commandment of wearing tefillin on the head, symbol of the brain, and on the arm opposite our hearts. These two organs correspond to the two cherubs. By keeping this in mind we can understand the powerful effect of putting on and wearing the tefillin. The second part of the Tabernacle, the one outside the Holy of Holies, contained the Altar for the incense (the Golden Altar), the Table, and the Menorah. These are highly distinguished interior furnishings, though not of the highest order. These furnishings correspond to the world of the planets in our universe. The planets are considered as highly honored, conveying the glory of the Creator by their very existence and regular orbits. They are responsible for the continued existence of an orderly universe. The world of the beasts and other living creatures performs a function on earth comparable to that of the planets in space. The organ in man corresponding to that world of beast in man is the heart, an interior organ upon which life itself is dependent. Our entire body remains functional only by the heart pumping blood through it on an ongoing basis. The third part of the Tabernacle is the Courtyard, in front of the Tabernacle, the site of the copper altar, the altar on which the public Elevation offering was offered up each morning and each evening. As a result of this, the animals being sacrificed, sustained losses, i.e. they lost their lives. This part of the Tabernacle corresponds to our "lower" world, which constantly undergoes birth and death, i.e. sustains losses. The parallel part in man is olam ha'teva, the merely functional nature, the parts from the navel downwards. It is this region from which man's existence develops first. This is also the reason it is the region whence the eventual death of the body commences. We must regard the loss of life as the cause of renewed existence; if there were no losses in our world there would not be a need for new life [be it human, animal or merely botanical, Ed.] to come into existence. We have now learned that the three parts of the Tabernacle correspond to the three parts of the universe concerning which King David said: "Bless the Lord, O, His angels, mighty creatures who do His bidding, ever obedient to His bidding. Bless the Lord all His hosts, His servants who do His will; bless the Lord all His works, through the length and breadth of His realm." (Psalms 103:10) David's sonSolomon also adopted his father's outlook when he alluded to this in three consecutive verses in Song of Songs 5:13-15. Three different parts of the human body form the subject of those verses, each one representing a different aspect of the universe and how man's composition reflects this division of the universe into three constituent parts. I[Rabbenu Bachya] have explained this in detail when I discussed Jacob's dream of the ladder.


A source (possibly the source for detailed symbolism) though not with the exact parallels, is quoted by R. Zedekiah (early 13th c.) in his Shibbole HaLeket (§3) in the name of a certain R. Meir, although it is found more elaborately in the Bereshit Rabbati of R. Moshe HaDarshan (ed. Albeck, p. 32). Since I can’t locate an online link, here is the text of BR:

כשם שבראתי העולם וגופך כן אתה עושה את המשכן. ומנין שכן הוא, את מוצא במשכן שהיו הקרשים קבועים בהאדנים. ובגוף הצלעות קבועות בחוליות. ובעולם כן ההרים קבועים ביסודי הארץ. במשכן היו הקרשים מצופי זהב, ובגוף הצלעות מצופות בשר וגידין נמתחין ומעמידין האדם. בעולם אילנות ועשבים נמתחין בארץ. במשכן היו היריעות מכסות את מעלה שלו ומכסות את שני צדדיו. ובגוף עור של אדם מכסה אבריו וצלעותיו משני צדדיו. ובעולם השמים מכסים את הארץ משני צדדיה. במשכן היה הפרכת מבדיל בין הקדש ובין קה״ק. ובגוף זרעפת הגוף [מבדלת] בין הלב ובין הבטן, ובעולם הרקיע שהוא מבדיל בין המים העליונים למים התחתונים שנא׳...

Here is my loose translation:

In the manner I [God] created the world and your body so shall you make the Tabernacle. Whence is this demonstrated? You find that the beams in the Tabernacle were set in sockets, the ribs in the body are set with vertebrae and mountains of the world are set in the earth’s foundations. In the Tabernacle the beams were covered in gold, in the body the ribs are covered with flesh and sinews which are taut and support the body and in the world trees and vegetation are spread throughout. In the Tabernacle the tapestries (יריעות) covered from above and the two sides, skin of the body covers the limbs and both sides of the ribs and the heaven covers both of earth’s sides. In the Tabernacle the partition (פרכת) divided between between the Sanctuary and Holy of Holies, the liver diaphragm separates the heart and the stomach and the sky separates between the waters above and the waters below.

An even more elaborate description is presented by R. Yehoshua ibn Shuaib in his derashot (30a).

Other parallels are illustrated in the Midrash Tadshe (ch. 11; cf. intro. pg. II).


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .