What Came First the Command to Build the Mishkan or the Sin of the Golden Calf?

When we read the parshiot in order, first we read Trumah followed by Tetzave and Ki Tisa. The commandment to build the Mishkan is in Trumah and the Sin of the Golden Calf is in Ki Tisa. If we follow the order in the Torah then the command to build the Mishkan comes before the sin of the golden calf.  According to Ramban, this is the order in which the events took place.


However, Rashi and Sforno both go by the principle of Ein mukdam umeuchar BaTorah, the Torah is not necessarily in chronological order.


According to Rashi (Shmot 31:14), the story of the Golden Calf took place many days before the command to make the Mishkan, since the tablets of stone were broken on the 17th of Tamuz. On Yom Kippur (the 10th of Tishrei), God was reconciled with Bnei Yisrael and the next day they began to bring voluntary offerings to the Mishkan which was erected on the 1st of Nisan.


Rashi continues (Shmot 33:11), on the 17th of Tamuz the tablets were broken, on the 18th he burnt the calf and meted out punishment to the sinners, on the 19th he ascended Har Sinai... He stayed there for 40 days and interceded…On the 1st of Elul he was told to receive the second tablets and stayed there for 40 days…On the 10th of Tishrei God became reconciled to Israel in joy and with a perfect heart and said to Moshe: “I have forgiven them”, handing him the second tablets. Moshe then descended and began to give the order for the construction of the Mishkan. They completed it on the 1st of Nisan.


Sforno feels that the Mishkan was an afterthought that was only given once God saw that Bnai Yisrael sinned with the golden calf and needed something tangible to help them relate to God.


In Yirmiyahu 7:22-23 we read: “For I spoke not to your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices; but this thing I commanded them saying: ‘Listen to My voice and I will be your God, and you shall be My people; and walk in all the way that I commanded you, that it may be well with you.’”


We learn from these psukim that the sacrifices were never meant to be the most important part of the religion.


According to Abravanel, when Bnai Yisrael left Egypt, it was more important to focus on faith in God and civil laws. However, after they made the calf, God had to provide an antidote to their spiritual infirmity. They would not have been commanded to sacrifice had they not sinned. At Har Sinai they were not commanded concerning “burnt offering and sacrifice” rather they were commanded to be obedient to Me that I may be your God and you will be My people and steadfastly follow the faith I commanded you.


If this is so then the question is, when the Third Beit HaMikdash is built speedily in our days will we still need the sacrifices? If we follow the opinions of Rashi, Sforno and Abravanel that the sacrifices are an antidote to the sin of the golden calf then maybe we won’t need them anymore.


However, if we follow the view of Ramban that the events in the Torah did in fact take place in chronological order and that the commandment to build the Mishkan did come before the sin of the golden calf then there is a good chance that the sacrifices will return.


Now we will just have to wait and see.