we became loyal Americans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen, lovers of baseball, connoisseurs of cognac, admirers of the Queen
THE COSMIC CONNECTION
Torah Portion “Terumah”
One of the tragedies of our long exile away from our Jewish homeland, scattered amongst the nations of the world, was that we gradually forgot who we were. While the ultra-Orthodox Jew managed to preserve a Jewish identity of sorts (the downtrodden Jew) by secluding himself in the ghetto, the modern Jew, including the modern Orthodox, came to identify himself with the gentiles and foreign culture around him, until we became loyal Americans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen, lovers of baseball, connoisseurs of cognac, admirers of the Queen. Outwardly, the only difference between a Jew and a gentile was that a Jew kept some different holidays, ate gefilta fish, and munched on bagels and lox. We forgot that we are the pinnacle of G-d’s Creation (Kuzari, 1:39-43), with a unique Divine soul, “a holy nation and a kingdom of priests” (Shemot, 19:6). We forgot that planted in each and every one of us, as an inheritance from our forefathers, is the blueprint of the universe, a miniature Mishkan, connecting us to all of the secrets of the cosmos, including the ability to overturn the forces of nature, make seas and rivers part, cause the sun to stand still, and draw the Presence of G-d back down to the world.
Sometimes, people say that the great miracles of our history were something from the past which don’t occur today. The truth is that they still occur, but that G-d camouflages them in the seemingly natural events of nature and history, very much as in the Purim story, where G-d is not mentioned even once in the Megilla, but it is obviously He who is pulling all the strings behind the curtain. Likewise, the establishment of the State of Israel and the incredible revival of the Jewish Nation in our time is a great miracle hidden in the historic occurrences like the Balfour Proclamation, the courage of the early pioneers, the Six Day War, and the ingathering of the exiles in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. True, G-d’s Name doesn’t appear in any newspaper accounts of these events, but obviously, He is the mastermind behind everything.
Little miracles happen too. For instance, one Shabbat, my wife felt pains in her leg throughout the day. Come Motzei Shabbat, I suggested calling the saintly Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, to ask for a blessing. I knew the Rabbi would be on his way to the Kotel, so I telephoned the driver of his car. Without specifying the problem, I told the Rabbi that my wife wasn’t feeling well. He told me to give her the phone. First, he told her to stand up (she was lying down.) Then he told her that her right leg was hurting. “That’s right,” she said. He told her to place her hand on her knee, and that he would concentrate on a blessing. My wife says she felt a wave of heat warm her whole leg. “It’s gone,” the Rabbi told her. “Your leg is fine. You can walk around the block and clean the whole house.” Sure enough, the pain had vanished. Spending time with the Rabbi, I have witnessed small miracles like that on dozens of occasions. The point is that a Jew who has fully developed his inner potential, and who has learned how to connect with the spiritual Internet, can bring about miracles, just by closing his eys and thinking. All of the great Tzaddikim were known for that.
Based on the holy Zohar, the “Nefesh HaChaim” explains how the Jew, the Mishkan, and the world are intrinsically one:
“The Mishkan, and the Mikdash, encompassed all of the powers of existence, and all of the worlds. The construction of the Mishkan was equaled to the Creation of the world, and all of the order of Creation was contained in it. Thus, a member of the holy Jewish nation, who also contains within him the blueprint of Creation, and the workings of the Divine Chariot, and all the secrets of the universe, he is also structured in the model and pattern of the Mishkan, the Mikdash, and all of its vessels. For his bodily anatomy, his organs, joints, and sinews, and all of his powers, all parallel the construction and vessels of the Tabernacle. This is implied in the verse, ‘And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them’ (Shemot, 25:8), implying that they themselves were to be, ‘according to the pattern of the Tabernacle and according to all its vessels.’ The command to do so was made in the future tense, meaning also for all Jews for all generations to come (Sanhedrin 16b). Thus, we can postulate that this was coming to say, ‘Don’t think that the ultimate goal of My intention is to have you construct an external Tabernacle, but rather to hint that you should see it and pattern yourselves after it, that you yourselves should be, by your doing the proper deeds, like the pattern of the Mishkan and its vessels, all of them holy, fitting, and prepared for the actual dwelling of My Shechinah (Divine Presence) within you’" (Nefesh HaChaim, Gate One, Ch. 4, Addendum).
Thus, each and every one of us is a potential Tabernacle, capable of drawing the exiled Shechinah back into the world. This is our real identity. But, for it to work, we have to remember it, believe in it, and develop our special Divine talents. For those of us who have been blessed with coming home to Israel, each of us has already returned a portion of the exiled Shechinah to the world just by coming back to Eretz Yisrael (See Rashi on Devarim, 30:3). But, we can’t rest on our laurels and trust that the nation will continue forward on its own. King David taught that there are two stages to aliyah and spiritual progress: “Who will ascend the mountain of the L-rd, and who will stand in his holy place” (Tehillim, 24:3). It is not enough to make aliyah and live in the Land of Israel. We have to stand strong in the raging winds of Redemption and live here in a holy fashion. We have to keep working in order to keep G-d’s Presence upon us, as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai explains on the opening verse of our Torah portion:
“Speak to the Children of Israel that they bring Me an offering; of every man whose heart prompts him to give, you shall take My offering.”
“This signifies that a person who exerts himself in the performance of a mitzvah, and in rectifying the Shechinah, must not be lax and wanting in his efforts, but rather, he must exert himself with all of his resources and strength” (Zohar, Terumah, 128a).
Rabbi Shimon teaches that the work of rectification (tikun), effected through our good deeds, cannot be accomplished in a lackadaisical fashion, but must be paid for in full price, in a spirit of self-sacrifice, like an offering from the heart. “Otherwise, the doer will not succeed in drawing upon himself a spirit of holiness from Above. For the spirit of impurity constantly tempts the heart of man with many easy allurements, in order to dwell in him. But the spirit of holiness is not so – its attainment demands sacrifice and a strenuous effort, in both small and great matters, including purification of one’s self and one’s dwelling, and devotion of the heart and soul. Therefore, a person must walk in a straight path, straying neither to the right nor the left; for otherwise, the Shechinah will immediately depart from him, and it will be most difficult to restore it to its place” (Ibid).
In other words, we have to keep on our toes and strive to maintain a high level of holiness, as befits our identities of miniature Sanctuaries. We have to live with the moment by moment recognition that all of our thoughts, and words, and doings have profound cosmic influence, for good, and also for evil, as the “Nefesh HaChaim” (source cited) makes clear:
“A man of Israel must understand, know, and establish in his mind and heart that every detail of his deeds, speech, and thoughts, at every second and time, all rise up according to their root source to influence the most exalted worlds. When a wise person recognizes this truth, his heart will greatly tremble in the face of his wrongdoings, realizing the awesome and devastating damage that even a small transgression can cause, even more than the destruction wrought by Nebuchadnezzar and Titus. For their deeds had no damaging effect on the upper worlds, for they have no portion or root source in those worlds that would enable them to cause damage there. Rather, it was our sins that polluted the celestial Temple, so to speak, and that gave Nebuchadnezzar and Titus the power to destroy the Sanctuary below….Therefore, when a man entertains an impure, licentious thought in his heart, G-d forbid, he in effect brings a prostitute into the most exalted, celestial Holy of Holies, giving strength to the forces of impurity and evil in this transcendently holy place, to a much greater extent than the impurity caused by Nebuchadnezzar and Titus when they brought a prostitute into the Holy of Holies in the Temple Sanctuary on earth. And this is also true regarding every transgression a Jew commits in his heart, whether the thought of idol worship, anger, or any other evil lust, these are the fires which destroys our Temple.”
It isn’t the Mashiach who is holding up the works. It’s us! Every time we get angry, or watch some smut on the Internet, we pollute not only ourselves, but also the planet, and all of Creation! Studying the Torah portions which deal with the Mishkan is not ancient history. It is a profound personal overhaul and a cosmic tikun, rectifying all of the worlds.