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"Make for Me a sanctuary!"
Adar 7, 5781/February 19, 2021
In six days G-d created the world! Amazing! With ten plagues G-d delivered Israel from Egypt! Incredible! And now... "And they shall make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst!" (Exodus 25:8) Say what?
Are we talking about the same G-d? Of course, we are - there is only One G-d. The G-d who created all reality is the same G-d who split the Sea of Reeds and buried the Egyptian legions in the returning waters, is the same G-d who is now calling upon the children of Israel - mortal, feeble, fallible creatures that they are - to make for Him a place in this world! How odd that G-d should require our "help" in re-calibrating our earthly reality. After all, isn't that what G-d specializes in? Shaping our reality?
But truly, it is a conundrum. How can G-d, whose very reality far exceeds the finite limitations of the world He created, possibly insert His Being back into this world? How can G-d create a finite space within which His infinite Presence can dwell? For the solution to this problem, G-d turns to man!
Every one of the 613 Torah commandments requires man to perform a task fully within the parameters of his own humble existence. The Torah commandments are founded on the principle of do-ability. For why would G-d require of man an impossible task? Yet this one commandment - "make for Me a sanctuary" - seems positively metaphysical in its scope! How is it possible?
No doubt anticipating this question, G-d proceeds to share with Mosheintricately detailed instructions concerning every aspect of the Tabernacle - its vessels and implements, its walls and roofing, and its courtyard. Furthermore, G-d places before Moshe a visual rendering of His intended dwelling: "according to all that I show you, the pattern of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the pattern of all its vessels; and so shall you do." (ibid 25:9)
Unlike the vast majority of positive commandments, the particulars of whose performance is left up to man to work out, the details of the Tabernacle are fully laid out in black and white. There's really no room for uncertainty. G-d knows exactly what He wants and He is eager to share His plans with Moshe.
The instructions for this national project are crystal clear, yet the question remains - how do we mere mortals create a place within our mortal midst for G-d?
For the answer, we need to look for the fine print, and in this case, the fine print are the opening words of this week's Parashat Terumah: "HaShem spoke to Moshe saying: 'Speak to the children of Israel and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering.'" (ibid 25:1) The offerings, of course, are the raw materials needed for the Tabernacle, but the active ingredient, the catalyst that will make this entire impossible mission possible, is found in these words: "from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity."
The infinite space G-d is seeking is not within the confines of the four walls of the Tabernacle, but within our hearts - here is where G-d's endless Presence will dwell - within our hearts! Only our desire to bring G-d's presence into our lives can match G-d's desire to dwell amongst us. Only within our love for G-d can we find the space to do the impossible, to bridge the unbridgeable, and to create an unlimited inner space that will be paralleled and reflected by the modest material Tabernacle that G-d is bidding us to build. The desire to make this happen, the will to see it through - has to come from us: only we can welcome G-d into our world.
As individuals we can each create our own private spaces for G-d to dwell within, but a nation chosen by G-d, and a family of nations united by their love for G-d, requires something more: a family of nations requires a Tabernacle - a Sanctuary - a Holy Temple - that cannot only fit within it G-d's infinite Presence, but no less importantly, be a place within which we all can fit, united in praise and thanks for G-d's desire to be our neighbor on this earth, a place in which we can see each other as G-d sees us and feel G-d's Presence bind us up as one in His eyes! A place for everyone - G-d included: the Holy Temple!