OU Torah Insights
February 20, 1999
Rabbi Moshe A. Kasinetz
Parshas Terumah begins
a series of parshios focused on the building of the Sanctuary in the wilderness to
"house" the Divine presence.
But how is this to
be understood? How can finite people using finite materials construct a dwelling place for
the Infinite? How can an area be defined for His presence when the prophet proclaims,
"The entire world is filled with His glory"?
initial verse, "They shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell among them,"
addresses this concern, informing us that this Sanctuary was not to simply be a tangible
project, but develop into a metaphysical fixture of Jewish existence.
G-d did not promise
to live "in it" but "among them"among the Jewish people, in each
and every Jew for all time, according to the Shaloh Hakadosh, Z"tl.
Thus, the Sanctuary
is to be viewed not simply as a physical structure, but as a spiritual framework granted
to each of us, an endowment from G-d to the Jewish people to fuse the spiritual and
physical worlds. We are assured that by adopting the formula spelled out in the Torah we
can create this Sanctuary within us.
It is in our
handsbased on our ability and on our commitmentto establish it. It is the very
purpose of creation, in the words of the Midrash, "to make this world a dwelling
place for A-mighty G-d."
The parshah lists
fifteen items used in building and maintaining the Sanctuary. Rashi, however, writes that
"the thirteen items under discussion were needed for the construction of the
Sanctuary and the priestly garments."
commentaries are left to wonder why Rashi says thirteen when the Torah lists fifteen. The Tzemach
Tzedek, Z"tl, points out that the Midrash in Shir Hashirim also lists
thirteen items, omitting oil and spice.
Oil and spice were
used on an ongoing basis as part of the Tabernacle service. That is why Rashi takes care
to point out that the thirteen materials were for the structure and the priestly garments.
The other twooil and spicewere used continuously, and thus communicate a
Torah, and spices were used as incense for the sacrificial offerings. Torah and
sacrificial offeringswhich in our times becomes Torah and tefillah, prayer.
Once the structure of the Sanctuary is set, there is the need for precise services
formulated by strict procedures. Only when Torah and tefillah are practiced do the
other thirteen items compose a Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary that
is within us is founded on the same premise. It cannot be removed from us as long as we
maintain our peoples timeless program of Torah and tefillah in their precise
formulationnot adulterated or tampered with.
Only when we follow
this blueprint can we bring the Divine presence into our physical environment. We can do
it. We are given the power and the promise to succeed.
Rabbi Moshe A. Kasinetz
is rabbi of the Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center in Livingston, New Jersey.