A tremendous power, then, was given to the Jewish people. Through carrying out the commandment of building the Mishkan, down to every one of the many details and specifications of the mitzvah, we were able to bring G-d into the world--or a more intense experience of G-d, if you will. There was a greater concentration of holiness at the site of the Mishkan (and, later, the Beis Hamikdash) than anywhere else in the physical universe; one could most easily perceive the spiritual there.
Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, known as the Alter (Elder) of Slabodka, was one of the pre-eminent Torah educators of modern times. (Many of the great Torah scholars who built yeshivos in America in this century were his students.) In a discourse from his famous collection of lectures, Ohr HaTzafun (Volume II, pp. 172-79), he points out that despite the great wisdom of Betzalel--who knew the deepest secrets of Creation, our Sages tell us, and employed that knowledge in building the Mishkan--, he was not himself able to erect the Tabernacle and bring down the Shechinah. It was only Moshe Rabbeinu who was able to do this, completing the work and allowing the glory of Hashem to fill the Mishkan. (See Exodus: Chapter 40) Why?
The Alter explains:
As he goes on to say, it is only the keeping of the Torah that brings--and keeps--G-d's presence among the Jewish people. This is why the Torah says, "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me--so that I will dwell among them," rather than, "so that I will dwell in it." In other words, the real dwelling place of the Shechinah is in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people, and what determines the degree of G-d's closeness to us is how much we learn and keep the Torah...not the great wisdom embodied in the structure called the Mishkan. (Or the ceremonies performed there.) As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains, the Mishkan, the public "Home of G-d's proximity to us," was meant to give us inspiration so that we'd make our own private homes--and minds and hearts--a dwelling place for Hashem.
As our Sages have taught us, it was our sins that caused our present Exile (as well as the previous ones); once the Shechinah had departed from our hearts, it was a foregone conclusion that Hashem would abandon the physical structure of the Temple...leaving it to be destroyed by the Romans. Maybe you can guess, then, how we should work towards rebuilding that Temple. Make yourself, and your home, into a Mishkan.
From the Mishkan, we learn that we have the power to bring holiness into the physical world through our actions. More precisely, through those particular actions that represent the will of Hashem-- the mitzvos. May Hashem open our hearts and minds to appreciate this awesome power we have, and to use it for the good of ourselves and all mankind.
Edelstein is Director
of the Savannah Torah Education Project (STEP). Phone: 912-355-0157;
Please be in touch
COMING TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23RD,
AT 7;45 AT THE J.E.A.--PART TWO OF THE HOLOCAUST-PURIM CONNECTION.
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