"And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst"
The importance of these words, their centrality to man's existence, and the impact which they have had, should have and must have upon Israel and the nations, is impossible to overstate. In terms of cosmic, cataclysmic, earth-shaking Biblical verses, it can be said that this one is right up there with, "In the beginning... " Why? What makes this commandment different from the other 612 Torah commandments received at Sinai?
For sure, every commandment, from those which appear the easiest to perform, or the most peripheral to our lives, to those which seem the weightiest, are of equal significance, and the performance of every commandment merits heavenly reward. It is what lies behind the commandment "build Me a sanctuary," what these words teach us about our world and about G-d's relationship to Israel and what He expects of man, the crowning glory of His creation, which makes this commandment so unique. "Build Me a sanctuary" implies, by the very nature of its intention, so sublime and yet so humble, the potential G-d sees in man, and the heights and perfection to which man can bring G-d's world.
G-d created the world in six days and then left off from creating. The world was complete. Or was it? In truth, G-d brought creation to a close with the creation of man. But what is man, with his free will, infused by G-d within his very being from his first breath of life, who rises and stumbles, who draws near to G-d one moment, and distant the next? Is man complete? And if not, then is creation truly complete?
From the moment that G-d created man, He was seeking a relationship, a partnership with man. This is the reason that G-d created man. G-d determined that "'It is not good that man should be alone,'" (Genesis 2:18) and created for man a helpmate. But it was also not good for G-d to be alone. Nor was it ever G-d's intention. G-d has always sought a partner, a friend, in man. Avraham became that friend to G-d, (Isaiah 41:8), and a father of many nations. And it was Avraham's progeny, the children of Israel, whom G-d took out of Egypt, gave to them Torah, and now requests, (if a commandment can be also be a request), but one thing: build for Me a house, let Me into your world. Be My friend, and together we can complete and perfect creation in the only way possible to do so: together, as one.
When Moshe first heard this commandment, Midrash tells us, he was incredulous. "How," he said, "Can we possibly build for You a house that you will dwell within, when the very heavens themselves cannot contain your infinite nature?" In other words, Moshe was saying, "Impossible!"
"On the contrary," G-d replied, "All it requires is twenty beams on the north side, and twenty beams on the south side, and eight beams on the west side, and I will come down and abide My glory amongst them." In other words, "Possible! Absolutely, totally, undeniably and exhilaratingly possible!"
G-d, in His response, made reference, of course, to the Tabernacle structure, as a way of illustrating how profoundly simple this task is to perform. In truth, it has nothing to do with wooden beams, or marble blocks, or animal skins, or silver or gold, but with the joining of our will, of our desires, to G-d's will. Of taking that free will that G-d blessed us with from the first, and placing this most precious gift of all in the place where it has always belonged: In G-d's treasure house - His Holy Temple.
What a delusion, what a madness it is to think that we Israel are not capable of, are not quite ready or worthy of the great task, the most profound and sublime Divine challenge of man - "to make [for G-d] a sanctuary that [He] will dwell in [our] midst!" Who created man, after all, and for what purpose, if not for this - to complete G-d's creation by bringing Him into our midst!
Tune in to this week's
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Yitzchak Reuven welcomes Rabbi Chaim Richman back to Israel and back to the studio. Just returned from his never ending journey throughout the great United States, and stranded for four days in the snows of New Jersey, Rabbi Richman shares his experiences and reflects upon the "Temple Conundrum:" Who is the Holy Temple for, anyway? So many people think it is either problematic, archaic, dangerous, or inconvenient. But those opinions are.... well, just that: opinions! Whatever happened to doing something for G-d? Remember Him? As Rashi so eloquently states: "For My Name's sake..." Of course we are referring to this week's Torah reading, parashat Terumah, the raison d'etre for everything that we do at the Temple Institute. "And you shall make for Me a Sanctuary" is G-d's desire... that we let Him in to this world. Breathtakingly simple!