In this week's Torah reading, parashat Teruma, (Exodus 25:1-27:19), the children of Israel in the desert embark upon a mission of staggering significance that will change the course of human destiny: the building of the mishkan - the tabernacle. This Torah portion begins to outline the Divine commandments relating to the tabernacle, which was the Holy Temple in its traveling, temporary form, and the sacred vessels and other details of the Divine service. But can a modest structure, 20 x 40 cubits in size, made of wood, wool, and animal skins really contain within its confines the glory of G-d, yet alone be worthy of His infinite might?
These questions seemed not to trouble the Almighty, Who "placed His order", as it were, with Moses, according to His chosen specifications. Nor did it trouble the Israelite nation, who without hesitation donated of their possessions, their time, and the skill of their hands and hearts. A ragtag band of runaway slaves were on their way to becoming "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation;" a nation in whose midst dwells the Creator of the universe. Tens of details concerning the creation of each of the tabernacle's vessels, and the tabernacle itself and its surrounding courtyard, are enumerated in parashat Teruma. Yet in reality only three distinct mitzvot - commandments - are being described: the building of the sanctuary - the mikdash, the placing of the showbread on the golden table, and the commandment that the carrying poles within the rings on the Ark of the Covenant should never be removed. (Some commentators also reckon the Ark itself as a separate commandment.) Yet every detail of the manufacture of the mishkan and its vessels - kelim - are according to a preexisting Divine blueprint: "According to all that I show you, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of the vessels, so shall you make it." (Exodus 25:9) Every vessel we assemble, according to this plan, revealed and recorded by the Written and Oral Torah, is an element of the commandment: "Build for Me a Sanctuary." Geopolitical obstacles aside, the building of the Third Temple has begun in earnest through the preparation of its vessels by The Temple Institute, and how could it be otherwise?
Some may ask: Could it be that G-d is less anxious to dwell amongst us today than He was then? Emerging from two thousand years of exile, is the Jewish nation today less "worthy" of performing G-d's commandments than the twelve tribes of Israel that He brought forth from Egypt? Did the artisans of that day possess secrets that the craftsmen of our generation, with all the technological advancements we have inherited, are not able to grasp? Yes, they stood at Mount Sinai, but are we not taught that we also stood at Mount Sinai? Do our three thousand years of history and received tradition count for anything? Would G-d entrust us with commandments impossible to fulfill? Are we so haughty as to think that we are a generation worthy of G-d's presence? Are we so haughty as to think not?
We are entering the new month of Adar - the month of Purim. Purim is the celebration of the world stood on its head: our enemies are suddenly entrapped by their own arrogance; the meek become the victors; the final nail in the coffin of the nation of Israel becomes the cornerstone of a rebuilt Temple. The world will forever witness seismic changes. But one thing is forever: "Make for Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among you." An in-depth discussion of these issues, with Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven, and fascinating insights by our listeners.
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