One of the most popular posts on this site is this discussion of the similarities of the Mishkan and the Beis Haknesses. It's been viewed by a broad spectrum of readers from Kabul, Afghanistan to Gun Barrel City, TX, and has accumulated over seven thousand page views. Even subtracting Nigerian princes, and even though it works out to around three views a day over the six years it's been up, that's a lot for this website, especially considering how not-reader-friendly my site can be. Instead of re-posting it, I'm linking to it here.
Its value is fourfold:
1. It emphasizes that a shul is truly a מקדש מעט, a Mishkan on a smaller scale.
2. It is helpful when saying a shiur in Kodshim to be able to use the shul as a visual aid, for example, using the Bima to point out the Matnos Dam,the amud and paroches for avodas Yom Hakippurim, and so forth.
3. It reinforces the awareness that many of our minhagim, even minhagim that seem merely arbitrary or utilitarian, are of ancient provenance and have a deep significance that is inherent, not adherent.
4. People who plan shuls are sometimes not aware of the preferences as to the proper layout of a shul. None of the things we're listing are essential, but all of them matter, and it's worth being aware of them in the planning stage. At least you'll know enough to make informed decisions.
That post was written to be understood by a broader audience. I felt that the idea is so important, and so fundamental to what it means to daven in a shul, that I wrote it so that it could be understood by everyone. Now, for the rest of us, I want to go through the Halachos which deal with the correspondence of the Beis Haknesses and the Mishkan/Beis Hamikdash. Chazal apply the words Mikdash Me'aht to our shuls (Megilla 29a) The real question is, how far does this idea go; to what extent does this correspondence manifest itself in halacha.
The cases I want to discuss are the following.
1. מורא המקדש is a Mitzva De'oraysa (Chinuch 254), from the passuk ומקדשי תיראו (Vayikra 26:2). Is מורא בית הכנסת a deoraysa or a derabannan (the Yerei'im, and Rav Chaim Falagi., Ran/Ramban Megilla 8a in Rif pagination, Pri Megadim beginning of 153 in MZ, and Mishna Berura 151 sk1).
2. We are told that we should daven toward the Beis Hamikdash (Brachos 30a), based on various pesukim, including וְשָׁמַעְתָּ אֶל תְּחִנַּת עַבְדְּךָ וְעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יִתְפַּלְלוּ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה (Melachim I 8:30.) What if the Aron Kodesh is on the North wall, for example. Should one face north toward the Aron Kodesh or east toward the Makom Hamikdash in Yerushalayim (OC 94).
3. In the Mishkan, certain items cannot be made of things that had been made for another purpose. The Rambam (1 Beis Habechira 20) says
אין עושין כל הכלים מתחילתן אלא לשם הקודש. ואם נעשו מתחילתן להדיוט אין עושין אותן לגבוה.To what extent does this apply to the Beis Haknesses and it's appurtenant elements (Zevachim 116b, Magen Avraham 147 sk5, Tshuvos Chasam Sofer OC 40, an awesome Chasam Sofer on this week's parsha, but only in the Shapiro edition of the Toras Moshe, on passuk 27:3, where he says that the copper for the Mitzbei'ach had to be mined specifically for that purpose, Reb Elchonon in KoSh 2:25) .
4. In today's parsha (25:8) , we learn that building the Mishkan/Beis Hamikdash is a Mitzva De'oraysa (Chinuch 95). Does the mitzva of ועשו לי מקדש create a chiyuv de'oraysa to build/designate a shul in the community (זוהר רעיא מהימנא בשלח נט, and see שדי חמד כללים מערכת הב' אות מג-מד.).
5. It is an issur De'oraysa to plant a tree in the courtyard of the Mikdash, and certainly in the Mikdash proper. Rambam 6 Avoda Zara:
הנוטע אילן אצל המזבח או בכל העזרה בין אילן סרק בין אילן מאכל אע"פ שעשאו לנוי למקדש ויופי לו הרי זה לוקה שנאמר לא תטע לך אשרה כל עץ אצל מזבח ה' אלהיך. מפני שהיה זה דרך עובדי כוכבים נוטעין אילנות בצד מזבח שלה כדי שיתקבצו שם העם.May one plant a tree in the courtyard of the Beis Haknesses (Reb Akiva Eiger OC 150 sk1, but see Netziv.)
6. There is an issur De'oraysa to damage any structural component of the Mishkan/Beis Hamikdash. Rambam 1 Beis Habechira 19:
כן הנותץ אבן אחת מן המזבח או מכל ההיכל או מבין האולם ולמזבח, דרך השחתה לוקה, שנאמר "וניתצתם את מזבחותם . . . לא תעשון כן, לה' אלוהיכם".Does the issur of לא תעשון כן (Devarim 12:4) apply to a Beis Knesses? (Rambam in SHM/LS:65, Avnei Nezer OC 34:17, and Rav Chaim Falagi, but most people say the Rambam really didn't mean it Mid'oraysa as seen in 6 Yesodei Hatorah 7, and also Ran Megilla 8a in Rif pagination, and Toafos R'eim on the Yereim mentioned above.).
7. Under the rubric of לא הוכשרו למלאכת שמים אלא עור בהמה טהורה בלבד and מן המותר בפיך, there is an opinion (Shabbos 28a) that the architectural elements and utensils of the Mishkan cannot be items which by definition may not be eaten, and they cannot come from non-kosher species of animals. This is why you cannot use horsehide to make Tefillin or write a Sefer Torah. Rabbeinu Bachay says that this is why no silk was used in the Mishkan, because it comes from silkworms. Does this apply to the Beis Haknesses (רבנו בחיי שמות כה,ג, Chasam Sofer, Teshuvos, OC 39, YD 276, and Sdei Chemed.)
I will, IYH, fill this out as time allows. But if I don't, at least most of the important mareh mekomos are there, and pretty much every single question is variously answered "Yes, it's mandatory," "No, it doesn't matter at all," and "Lechatchila you should try to do it that way." But it matters very much who says what.