Insights into Exodus
This issue is dedicated to the refuah sh'lemah, the full and speedy recovery, of Freyda Liba bas Minnah.
Being homeless must be awful. Aside from the considerable physical discomfort involved, it is demoralizing: no place to call one's own, no special haven where one can rest from the trials of life, no central locale in which to express one's individuality and perform kindness for others. Is it any wonder that our Sages counted a pleasant home among those things in life which "expand the consciousness of a man?"
This is true with regard to a person. But can the same
thing be said about G-d? Does He, too, need a home? Not really, you'll say: He lacks
nothing, and is not diminished if He is without a "central locale" on earth.
Makes sense. Or you might say the whole earth is Hashem's home, or, perhaps, the heavens.
Both reasonable answers.
The Mishkan was the physical and spiritual center of
their encampment, lovingly constructed according to divine specifications from
materials--gold, silver, copper, wood, colored wool, and more--freely given by the Jewish
people; it was the site of the Altar, where individuals seeking greater closeness to G-d
brought offerings; and of the Tent ofMeeting, over which G-d's Cloud of Glory hovered, and
where Moshe heard the "voice" of the Almighty address him from between the wings
of the golden cherubim on the cover of the holy Ark (aron).
The beauty and mystery of the Mishkan have inspired
wonderment in students of the Torah throughout the ages; our great commentators have
filled countless pages analyzing each of its sacred vessels. The Kabbalists have explained
that the Mishkan is a microcosm of the universe, reflecting "the universal source
from which life and blessings emanate to all the spheres of creation." (Rabbi Elie
Munk, The Call of the Torah: Volume 2, p. 365) This dea fits well with the rabbinic
teaching that Betzalel, the chief architect of the Mishkan, knew the mystical secrets of
combining the letters of the aleph-beis--those building blocks of creation which, our
Sages say, Hashem used to construct the universe!
And there are, of course, many other interesting ways
of looking at the Mishkan.;
When Hashem said to Moshe, "Make for me a Mishkan," Moshe was puzzled and said, "The glory of G-d fills the upper worlds and the lower worlds, and He says, 'Make me a Mishkan?!'" And furthermore, Moshe looked [through prophecy] and saw Shlomo (Solomon) building the Beis amikdash which was larger than the Mishkan, and he [Shlomo] said, "For will G- indeed dwell on the earth? [behold, the heaven and heaven o eavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have built?]" Moshe said, "And if Shlomo said this about the Beis Hamikdash, which is much bigger than the Mishkan, how much more so is it true of the Mishkan!"
....The Holy One, Blessed be He, said, "The way
that you think is not the way that I think; rather, 20 planks on the north side and 20 on
the south side [i.e. the length of the Tent of Meeting], and eight on the west side [the
width] and no more; I will descend and contract my presence (shechina) within a
space of a cubit by a cubit." How could the Mishkan, a relatively small structure,
contain the presence of G-d? Simple! Hashem "contracted" his presence.
(Simple for Hashem, anyway, even though we may not understand how it works.)
So, really, the answer to the question, "How can
G-d be housed in a finite construction?" is: "Don't ask how--just build it as
I've commanded." It's beyond our understanding. As for the second
question, one basic and quite beautiful answer is that G-d loves the Jewish people and
wants to shower His special blessing and protection on us. So He allowed us to build a
Mishkan--and, later, a Temple--and experience His closeness to a much greater degree than
the other nations. Hashem's intention was that our collective life, suffused with the
holiness made manifest in the Temple, would be a "light unto the nations," and
humanity would, ultimately, be transformed. (Munk, quoting the Kabbalists, p. 366)
Well, it hasn't turned out that way exactly, you might say: both of our
Temples were destroyed, and we are still languishing in this final exile. HOW and WHY did
"If you will follow my decrees and observe My
commandments and perform them...Then I will place My Sanctuary among you, and My spirit
will not reject you." (Leviticus: 26, 11. Artscroll Chumash, p. 711) WE have to
lead holy lives, and then G-d will allow us to enjoy the extra easure of His
closeness in a Temple. In fact, the true purpose of the Mishkan and the Beis
Hamikdash, with their intense holiness, was to motivate us to bring sanctity into our
homes and hearts outside of their walls. We weren't supposed to consign kedusha to the
Temple Mount any more than we, today, should limit our personal relationship to G-d to a
once-a-week (or once-a-year) visit to the synagogue. As Rabbi Hirsch puts it:
Rabbi Yosef Edelstein, Savannah Kollel. Phone: 355-0157; fax: 354-9923; e-mail address: Yosef18@aol.com
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