Our Home With God, וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם 

 וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם 

This week’s Parsha, תרומה, introduces us to the Mitzvah of building the Mishkan. The mitzvah uniquely takes the whole of this weeks’, as well as a majority of the next four weeks portions! Upon reading through the Parsha through this week, and the following 4, the topics can become redundant. The mitzvot of the Mishkan are clearly distinct and special, but do we really need five consecutive weeks reading and learning every detail? Additionally, contrasting this notion of exceeding detail, the overall purpose of the Mishkan may seem unclear. The most famous and grammatically questionable Pasuk in our Parsha reads וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. Upon reading the puzzling pasuk, the original intention for this Mishkan is unclear. Was the Mishkan built by Bnei Yisrael for Hashem, as a sanctuary primarily for Him, to embrace us? Or rather as a human space, created for Bnei Yisrael to gather in divine servitude to Him?

The Gemara (.ברכות נה) cites an idea that בצלאל, the architect of the Mishkan, was endowed with a special ability to see beyond the finite letters and numbers humanity understands. Within building the Mishkan, בצלאל understood how to join the lofty letters which were the very conduits by which the world came into being. These letters are equated In Kabbalah to the notion of אין סוף, the infinite realm of all divinity. Because of his unique ability to grasp such lofty concepts, בצלאל was described as having been imparted with the presence of God and imbued with his divine wisdom, the pasuk (שמות לא:ג) reads וָאֲמַלֵּ֥א אֹת֖וֹ ר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֑ים בְּחָכְמָ֛ה וּבִתְבוּנָ֥ה וּבְדַ֖עַת”. These same words closely resemble a pasuk in Mishlei (משלי ג:יט) describing God’s wisdom in creation: “יְֽהוָ֗ה בְּחָכְמָ֥ה יָֽסַד־אָ֑רֶץ כּוֹנֵ֥ן שָׁ֝מַ֗יִם בִּתְבוּנָֽה” In constructing the Mishkan, בצלאל had a pearl of similar wisdom imparted to him as God’s very own. Just as the detail of divine creation is necessary, so is the detail of the creation of the Mishkan. Beyond that, within the detail lies ensuing beauty. So much, that the architect of it was given a share of some of Hashem’s lofty capacity in design! The Mishkan was evidently built with the very same premise of creation, and it’s words trace back to בראשית.  

To understand the overall importance and necessity of the Mishkan, we must once more trace back to (בראשית ג:ח). Going back to the story of Adam Harishon, after his and Chava’s sin, and subsequently, their expulsion from the garden the pasuk says: “וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת-קוֹל ה׳ אֱלֹקים, מִתְהַלְֵּ בַּגָּן–לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם”, They heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of day. This pasuk was interpreted by Rav Soloveitchik (Rav Soloveitchik Notes (3) Lecture delivered by Rabbi Soloveitchik on Saturday night, March 3, 1979; David Isaac) to mean that they heard Hashem’s footsteps in the garden. The “footsteps” were those of God, leaving the garden and “departing to the infinite”. The despairing moment of departure of Hashem, from His garden, left Adam and Chava, as well as us, void of full connection and understanding. Since this time back in Bereshit Perek ג, until this very point in Torah, do we finally see the willful return of God to a corporeal abode, וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם. The motive of the Mishkan, from this understanding, was to instill an enduring relationship with Hashem once-more. 

However, what we must now ask is if the motive of the Mishkan was indeed to rebuild a relationship between Bnei Yisrael and Hashem ⎯ was it built for Him, or us? Logically speaking, the infinite cannot be coerced to finite dimensions. Shlomo famously exclaims to Hashem in praise, Even the Heavens cannot contain You, how much less this house that I built! If even the Heavens aren’t expansive enough for Hashem’s dwelling, was Shlomo’s constricted Beit Mikdash? Seemingly, it was- as we know that Hashem dwells in the Mikdash and Mishkan. The pesukim (שמות כה:כא) write; “וְדִבַּרְתִּ֨י אִתְָּ֜ מֵעַ֣ל הַכַּפֹּ֗רֶת מִבֵּין֙ שְׁנֵ֣י הַכְּרֻבִ֔ים”. There between those two Cherubim is where Hashem speaks to us. There, lies the quintessential intimate connection between us, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu. So, perhaps, the answer is that it is both a dwelling for us and God. Us human beings, analogous to Hashem, are in reality, homeless. As the Rav says, we have a “home”, but no matter how much they are fortified, “they are exposed to the vicissitudes of life”. The ephemeral homes where we reside contrast the everlasting Mishkan; where the One who’s unbound, seemingly confines and contracts Himself to interact with our confined world 

The distinct relationship between us and Hashem is the ultimate purpose of      וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם; To construct for Him a Mishkan, so that He will dwell within it, and subsequently within us. The Netivot Shalom furthers this idea, and adds, that the Mishkan would be the conduit through which קדושה enters the world and our lives. The Slonimer Rebbe expands this further through the pasuk, “דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כָּל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ תִּקְח֖וּ אֶת־תְּרוּמָתִֽי.” The wording of the Pasuk is interesting, Hashem tells Moshe, tell Bnei Yisrael to take for me gifts, and He’ll accept those from every person whose heart so moves him. The specified wording echoes the idea that Hashem wants our efforts in servitude to Him. He wants the תרומה, yet it is not written as a distinct command. The reason is that He wants us to want Him, to contribute in a sincere way and construct a meaningful connection. To build a house with one’s spouse,  wholehearted efforts must manifest on both sides. This notion is the same when we build a house with Hashem. The most important aspect of any relationship is widely taught to be communication- a conversation which consists of asking, and fulfilling, on both sides. When we ask Hashem for קדושה in our lives at those times that we might not feel, or see it, we must reflect upon ourselves. Are we just merely asking, or are we doing? We have the means by which to attain קדושה, but where are our endeavors drawn towards? 

This week, as we read about the onset of the building of Mishkan, we should all be zoche to acquire the grandeur of it. To not inquire regarding the necessity of the detail, but rather be left captivated and in awe by it. Thus, we can rebuild our relationship with Hashem internally, sharpening our connections, communication, so that our exterior Mishkan, our everlasting home, be rebuilt again. 

About the Author
Yael Evgi grew up in Queens, New York, and attended YUHSG for high school. Yael was involved in NCSY and became chapter president in sophomore more year. She became a FIRE fellow in YUHSG, helping with the creation of Jewish programming. She was class president in her senior year. Yael studied in Israel at Midreshet Moriah for a year and a half. Her passion continues today in Stern as she studies Political Science and Psychology. She spearheads PR in the YUPAC club on campus, is a Justice on the Constitutional Council, and is a MASA campus liaison. She is hoping to continue on to Law school and pursue International Relations Law.
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