"Make for Me a Sanctuary"
Garden of Eden, Day 6: Having created the perfect environment of intimacy between man and G-d, G-d presents man with one single commandment: "But of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat of it, for on the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:17) Man fails, falls prey to his own evil inclination, and eats of the forbidden fruit. The earthly paradise prepared by G-d for man is "put on ice" as G-d expels man from the Garden of Eden, and history, as we know it, begins.
Fast-forward twenty five generations: The children of Israel find themselves in the wilderness, having just escaped, through G-d's outstretched arm, two hundred and ten years of servitude. They have traversed the Sea of Reeds, they have stood at Sinai. In incontestably the greatest second chance ever afforded man in history, G-d says the following: "make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell amongst them." (Exodus 25:8) Once again, G-d is proposing to man the intimacy that was G-d's will from the beginning of time. In fact, this intimate, face to face, relationship, as it were, was the very Divine purpose behind creation: for G-d and man to dwell as one.
In the Garden of Eden it was G-d who created the meeting place, and it was incumbent upon man to limit and to rule over his own desire, his own essence. Here, in the desert, G-d proposes a role reversal: It is man who will build the meeting place, the Tabernacle, (and later the Holy Temple), and it is G-d who will perform the act of self-limitation, as it were, dwelling with man, in this world. Moses, Midrash teaches us, was astounded by the proposition: "Holy One, Your infinite being cannot be contained in the heavens, themselves, how much more so, can You not be contained within a structure built by man." G-d replied, assuring Moses that He could, indeed, perform the impossible, and be both omnipotent, and infinite and yet at the same time, dwell amongst man, via the portal of the Tabernacle. But even while Moses was expressing his astonishment, the children of Israel were, to a man, (and woman), answering G-d's call to "take for Me an offering." (ibid 25:2)
The children of Israel understood what was at stake, and were determined that this time they would not again fall prey to the selfish urge to see themselves as gods, to delude themselves that it was their will, and not G-d's, that rules the day. This time they made an offering to G-d of all their unique wisdom and skills, all their experience and artistry, their wealth, their time, their creativity and energy, all that was precious to them. While Moses pondered the vast immense implication of G-d's proposal, they intuitively understood the sublime simplicity of it. As G-d told Moses, in His response to Moses' question, "It is exquisitely achievable: All you need are twenty beams in the north, twenty beams in the south, and eight beams to the east."
And so it is that what appears easily attainable can be deceptively difficult, and what we would deem daunting and impossible, is easy, if only we want it. Adam harishon - the first man - was given a paradise in which to dwell and the choice of all the fruits of the Garden of Eden, but one. So easy, yet, as proved to be the case, so tantalizingly difficult. Building the Tabernacle, a place suitable to house the presence of G-d, which, to any clear thinking, rational mind is a task so formidable as to be unachievable, really isn't so difficult at all. fast-forwarding once again, this time to the present generation, we, (Israel, mankind), find ourselves right back in the historical moment, the Divine proposition, the fateful decision. A rational mind will discover nothing but obstacles to "make for me a sanctuary." (ibid) "O Holy One, how can we build for you a house on Mount Moriah? The nations of the world are set against us. Even the murmur of a prayer is forbidden on your holy mountain?"
Israel in the wilderness answered with the heart, ("every person whose heart inspires him to generosity" ibid 25:2), and the awesome became achievable. We too must answer with our hearts, and not be dissuaded by the naysayers and the pusillanimous. Building a house for G-d, a Holy Temple, is preeminently doable. Otherwise, G-d never would have raised the issue. Not in Eden, not in the wilderness, and not in the land of Israel today.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven begin an exploration of the secret of Adar's great happiness. Our sages exhort us that "when Adar enters, we increase in joy." There is something about the very essence of this month that radiates joy, and it's not just because Purim falls out in the middle. In discussing this week's Torah reading of Teruma, our hosts reflect on G-d's command to build a House for His Name, and speak frankly about the need for all people to participate in the building of the Holy Temple.