“It came to pass in the first month, in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the Mishkan was set up.”– Exodus 40:16
After the Exodus from Egypt, the B’nei Yisrael ascended over a period of forty-nine days on their way to Sinai. How was this journey an ascent? Figuratively speaking, they had ascended from the forty-ninth level of impurity, over the course of forty-nine days, wherein they were able to make an account of their souls (tikkun hanefesh) to H’Shem. The Torah records that Moshe requested that B’nei Yisrael prepare themselves for receiving the commandments three days ahead of time. However, tradition holds that the refinement of their souls, through introspection of their character, began at the outset of the Exodus, continuing for a period of forty-nine days.
Had they remained at their new level, acquired over this period of time, the Mishkan (Tabernacle) would have not been necessary, because they would have all been pure vessels, so to speak, capable of receiving H’Shem’s Presence, the Shechinah within themselves. However, with their lapse into idolatry, upon the building of the golden egel (calf), they fell back into impurity, because of the idolatrous nature of their revelry (Exodus 32:19). Thus, Moses broke the tablets, for their righteousness had plummeted, and they were no longer worthy of receiving the Tablets.
Yet, on Sinai, during the forty days that Moses had spent in communion with H’Shem, he had received the divinely inspired plans for the Mishkan. And, this would serve for their atonement. So, a year later, upon the completion of the building of the Mishkan, Moshe blessed B’nei Yisrael, “And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the L-RD had commanded, even so had they done it. And Moses blessed them” (Exodus 39:43, JPS).