Tetzaveh: Revealing the revealed

That Hashem desires our participation in the relationship with Him is the greatest gift He can give us.

Rabbanit Shira Smiles,

Judaism Young women study Torah
Young women study Torah
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Summary by Channie Koplowitz Stein

As Parshat Tezaveh continues with instructions for building the Mishkan, Hashem links the Tabernacle not only with dwelling among Bnei Yisroel and the sanctity that would generate, but also with Bnei Yisroel knowing that it was Hashem Who took us out of Egypt to be our God. Two very logical questions arise, as proposed by Rabbi Lugassi in B’Yam Derech: First, we know that Hashem’s presence is everywhere. How can it be “contained” within the structure of the Mishkan? Second, Now that we no longer have a Mishkan or its successor, the Beit Hamikdosh, how can we continue to feel God’s presence among us?

We can approach these questions from two distinct although not mutually exclusive perspectives. Rashi posits that our redemption from Egypt is directly tied to our building the Mishkan, for the entire process was for this end result, that we, Bnei Yisroel, become His people and serve Him not only at Sinai and through the general laws of the Torah but also through the particular service within the structure He commanded us to build for as His dwelling place. On the other hand, Ramban and others say that the Mishkan was built for Hashem’s sake, so that His glory could be manifest in the world. With either approach, it is necessary that an element of emunah, of faith in G-d, Hakodosh Boruch Hu, be present.

Emunah, belief and faith is not something strictly intellectual. It must be felt in the heart as well as known in the brain. This is the level of intimate knowledge Hashem desires of us in our relationship with Him, notes Rabbi Friedlander, the Sifsei Chaim. This is the intimate emotional connection necessary for a full and true relationship between a husband and wife, and the relationship Eliyahu wanted Bnei Yisroel to feel for Hashem when He accepted Eliyahu’s offering at Har Carmel.

Just witnessing miracles is not enough, notes Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz. One must stop and reflect on all that is happening around you. Only through such pause and reflection can one grow spiritually. While the eye may see much physically, adds the Sifsei Chaim, it is the heart that must see emotionally and be changed. While Bnei Yisroel physically witnessed all the miracles associated with our exodus from Egypt, Moses still had to tell them to pause and observe, and thus let the message enter their psyche so that they would feel it constantly.

Rabbi Scher makes a very valid psychological point in Likutei Sichot Mussar. He notes that the more concrete and tangible an idea is, the easier it is to integrate. That’s why Hashem wanted us to build Him a Mishkan. This would be the last step in the redemption process and would remain a tangible and concrete reminder of all the miracles Hashem performed for them up to this point.  After all, there were miracles here too, in the Mishkan and later in the Beit Hamikdosh that would become part of the emotional journey to spirituality. And if we truly believe Hashem is everywhere, we can create that same spiritual connection even today, without a Beit Hamikdosh, if we maintain the proper mindset every time we enter a shul.

It is not that Hashem’s presence is limited to this area, but that Hashem chose to concentrate some of His glory here so that we could experience it and extend it to the world beyond. The purpose of the Beit Hamikdosh was to uproot haughtiness and anger which are symptoms of a lack of faith. When one realizes that everything comes from Hashem, that nothing exists without Him, one can be neither egotistical at his accomplishments nor angry when things do not go his way. In this way, the Mishkan and Beit Hamikdosh were to be constant reminders of Hashem’s presence as a school where we could internalize the lessons of Hashem’s omnipresence in our lives.

If we now move on to an alternate understanding of leshochni betochom, that I (Hashem) should dwell among them, we arrive at the Ramban’s interpretation that Hashem wants this Tabernacle so that He may dwell among us. Does Hashem have a need to rest His presence there, in that structure, asks Rabbi Broide? What does that mean?

Rabbi Broide explains (see Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb's article for the development of this idea)  that there are really two ways of giving. The first is the way we usually interpret giving, as giving a gift to someone else. But perhaps a deeper way of giving is by accepting graciously the gift of another and allowing them to give that gift. This is nowhere more readily recognizable than when someone great accepts a gift from someone of equal or especially of lower rank. (Consider that thought next time someone offers to help you and you are too proud to accept help.) How great is the gift Hashem gives us when He accepts our praises as our gifts to Him. Further, continues Rav Broide, when we bless and praise Hashem, especially after a meal, we cause a ripple effect for all living things to offer song and praise to Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

Until now, we were passive recipients of Hashem’s kindness, chessed, as He performed miracles, took us out of Egypt, split the sea, gave us the Torah at Sinai. With the building of the Mishkan and singing the praises of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, we become active participants in our relationship with the Creator. That Hashem desires our participation in this relationship is the greatest gift He can give us. The possibility for the constant reciprocity of this relationship is what the Mishkan and the Beit Hamikdosh represent.

The Imrei Chaim, Rabbi Chaim Kamiel verbalizes our question and that of Moses himself. If the whole world cannot contain You, how can we build a place in which You will reside? Hashem’s response is the mantra which must guide our lives. Moses, you do your work and then I will do Mine. True, we cannot accomplish much on our own, but if we put in our earnest effort, Hashem will help us. Moses could not fashion the menorah until Hashem showed him how. Moses could not raise the massive beams of the Mishkan without the strength of Hashem’s strong “arms”. One of little faith or little desire gives up easily, whether it is or to pray with proper focus, to learn, or to build. But a wise man decides to start with one small step, with concentrating on one word of a prayer, learning one verse of Torah, or trying to lift one beam, and Hashem will aid in that effort.

But Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz in Tiv Hatorah moves on to the ultimate purpose. The Sanctuary in the desert is the prototype for the sanctuary each of us is to build in our heart through the degree of emunah he possesses. It is the deep knowledge that Hashem is always before me, individually. He is my personal God as well as our national God. I carry His sanctuary within myself even in the absence of an external physical structure.

Dovid Hamelech writes that he asks one thing of Hashem, to dwell in His house all the days of his life. Obviously, that is impossible. But what is possible is to create sanctuaries within our homes, writes the Netivot Shalom, and it that way we can always dwell in the house of Hashem. The whole purpose of creation, of the redemption from Egypt, and finally of building the Mishkan and the Beit Hamikdosh was for Hashem to rest His Shechinah, His loving, guiding presence on mankind and on the world, and prepare us for accepting the Torah, writes theMishnat Yosef. The vessels and vestments of the Sanctuary were meant to be portals to making Hashem our personal God.

Rabbi Wolbe explains that while Hashem’s presence indeed fills the entire world, the Mishkan was a place more conducive to our feeling His presence. Similarly, a shul or a shiur are also conducive to feelings of spirituality. But before we enter, we must prepare ourselves to receive God’s presence. Leaving a cell phone on, for example, creates an easy distraction from the spiritual element which is present, waiting to be accessed.

Letitcha Elyon records the lesson Rabbi Ephraim Oratz z"l heard from his Rosh Yeshivah. Rav Zeidel Epstein would advise any young man about to get married. He would tell them to seek an apartment where they could designate one corner as a place for contemplation and introspection. In this way, he would create a mikdash me’at, a small sanctuary within his own home that he could access at any time. This would be the sacred place within your home where he could communicate with his personal God. Rav Asher Weiss adds, citing Kedushas Levi, that the Jewish home may be even holier that a shul, for in a shul we perform Rabbinic commandments of prayer, while in the home we perform Torah commandments from mezuzah to hachnosat orchim.

It is along these lines that Rabbi Pincus in Nefesh Chaya defines the glorious creation that is a woman. While the man’s role exists primarily outside the home and is external, the woman’s domain is in the home. She herself is the essence of connection to Hashem. She requires no external trappings, no tzitzit, no tefillin, not even a sukkah, for she encompasses in her being the entire Torah. Therefore, the child’s first Beis Medrash is its mother’s womb and it is nursed on its mother’s Torah and spirituality. It is the woman who generally creates and maintains the aura of sanctity within a home.

Rabbi Scheinerman emphasizes our point. In Ohel Moses he writes that although Hashem commanded us to build a structure for His presence, the purpose was to create an eternal, internal space for Hashem’s presence within ourselves. Each vessel within this external Mishkan must somehow symbolically reflect an aspect of the sanctuary within the heart of every Jew so that Hashem’s presence can reside within him. It is within the heart that must intimately know and feel that Hashem is his personal God and that he constitutes the greatest sanctuary for His presence.