"And I Shall Dwell in their Midst"

The Divine Presence reveals itself in every domain of this world: mineral, vegetable, animal and human. At the same time, G-d transcends the world: "Adon Olam - Master of the world, Who ruled before any creature had been created...." (From the morning prayers) G-d is in no way limited to revelation through nature, as Spinoza would have had it. He is above all revelation, unlimited, at once

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
I. "V'shachanti betocham" - "And I shall dwell in their midst." (Sh'mot 25:8)

The Divine Presence reveals itself in every domain of this world: mineral, vegetable, animal and human. At the same time, G-d transcends the world: "Adon Olam - Master of the world, Who ruled before any creature had been created...." (From the morning prayers) G-d is in no way limited to revelation through nature, as Spinoza would have had it. He is above all revelation, unlimited, at once both transcendent and immanent, revealing Himself in our limited world and in every creature thereof.

But the highest level of Divine revelation expresses itself through the soul of the nation. Just as each individual has his own personality, so does every nation have its own special national genius. Modern philosophers have recently begun to understand that every nation has its own soul, its own "national psychology." It is this which the book of Daniel (10:20-21) calls a nation's "sar" (prince), while in rabbinic terminology it is the "nation's angel." This term refers to the Divine force within a nation that impels it to reveal its own individual character upon the stage of history. National character is not the result of any conscious decision or human choice. No nation ever sat and decided, "This shall be our character."

Even language, the external expression of character, has never developed as the result of an artificial decision (see Kuzari 1:53-56). The nation, its language, and its culture are the result of lengthy historical processes, which contribute to the formation of humanity in general and nations in particular. These general principles are unobservable, uncontrollable and almost unlimited in duration. Therefore, each nation is a creation of G-d, the embodiment of Divine Providence.

The formation and geographical dispersion of the nations of the world are the product of Divine Providence, as the Torah tells us in B'reishit 11:20: "And G-d dispersed them all over the land." At the end of the Torah in parshat Ha'azinu (D'varim 32:8), we find all of human and Jewish history summarized: "He has established the borders of the nations (according) to the number of the Children of Israel." This division of humanity into national units is essential in order for each segment of humanity to discover its own particular talents and personality. Were all of humanity unified at the very start of history, individuality would have been stifled and the development of the various potentials inherent within humanity would have been hindered. In order for all potential to be developed properly, different aptitudes and creative talents must be divided among different national groups, despite the fact that such division tends to lead to strong opposition and even violence on a national level - in other words, to war.

The struggle to discover one's own nature leads to a struggle against external forces that inhibit expression of that inner nature. However, the establishment of barriers between nations is not an ideal situation. At the end of days, after lengthy historical processes have developed each nation's individuality through crises and wars, the time for unity will come. National traits will blur in the light that will emanate from Zion. Accordingly, the number of sacrificial heifers offered on Succot on behalf of the nations of the world decreases from one day of Succot to the next (see siddur of Rabbi A. Kook, Olat Re'iya I, pg.432). The world is moving towards smaller national divisions.

Although all nations are the products of Divine Providence and are graced with Divine potential, the greatest and most intense revelation of the Divine in this world is embodied in the Jewish nation: "For a part of G-d is His people." (D'varim, ibid.) The Torah, implanted in our very being, which is the very soul of Israel, is a quintessential revelation of the Divine. It may be compared to an author who puts his whole self into his writings. In the Torah, G-d reveals Himself insofar as He can be understood by human beings. All other revelations in history or nature are mere sparks of this revelation.

"You shall be holy, for I, your L-rd, am holy." (Vayikra 19:2) Certain nations have a genius for art or science. We have a genius for kedusha (holiness); this is how G-d created us. At first glance the reason given above - "for I, your G-d, am holy" - seems illogical. How can the fact that G-d is holy obligate us to be so, too? Can man possibly be expected to behave like G-d? The answer is that this "reason" is a statement of a fact of life. You are holy! "For I am holy" - the Holy One created you holy for you are an extension of Him, and since you are guaranteed to be holy and to have this ability, therefore are you commanded and morally bound to make the effort to integrate holiness into your lives and to actualize your potential. The mitzvah is based on the Divine creation and assurance.

"Veshachanti betocham" means that G-d makes His Divine Presence rest upon us. The grammatical form of the Hebrew word Shechina (Divine Presence) is that of a gerund - "Divine Presencing" (as in "eating", "sitting", and so on). In other words, it is the name of a continual action, meaning that the Divine Presence continually reveals itself in our midst. This revelation is the power of life, the Divine vitality that gives life to all living things everywhere. The mineral and vegetable worlds also have a Divine revelation, which is the source of their own vitality, but this vitality is most concentrated in the Jewish nation, and by extension, in all of its individual members. The Divine Presence is the soul of Israel, the Divine force within - its very life.

II. The Beit HaMikdash

The idea of building G-d a house is much more difficult to comprehend than the idea of a Divine Presence. We can see that Divine sanctity appears in man's soul. Man is a spiritual creature and so Divine spirituality can make contact with him. But a house for G-d? This "house" however, has no beds, and the food (lechem hapanim - the showbread) is taken away uneaten once a week. King Shlomo prayed, "The Holy One proposed to dwell in the mist," (Melachim I, 8:12) expressing G-d's transcendence, although the king himself was the one who built the Beit HaMikdash.

Our meeting with the Divine Presence takes place in the heart of Israel's kingdom, in the Beit HaMikdash. Our nation has its own political capital, and therefore the Divine Presence is enthroned in a real house in our political and Torah capital. This great and holy house is the place where "heaven and earth meet," the transition from heavenliness to earthliness.

Just as the neck connects one's head to one's body, one's spiritual and intellectual center to one's physical base, so does the Beit haMikdash connect our spiritual and physical centers: "And he fell on his brother Binyamin's neck and wept" (B'reishit 45:14) - "for the two Batei Mikdash destined to be built (and later destroyed) in Binyamin's territory." (Rashi, ibid.) Ya'akov dreamt that he saw "...a ladder based on the earth whose top reached the heavens, and behold, angels of G-d were ascending and descending it. And he was filled with awe, and he said, 'How awesome is this site; it is none other than the house of G-d and this is the gate to heaven.'" (B'reishit 45:14) Ya'akov understood that the enormity of the vision he had experienced was due to the awesome holiness of the site, which is characterized by its capacity to serve as a "ladder." Although firmly "based on earth" in this physical world, its "top reached the heavens" - the heights of spirituality. This place is the bridge between spirituality and earthliness, a bridge upon which "angels of G-d were ascending and descending," thereby bringing Divine blessing to the world and elevating and consecrating earthly life.

The Mishkan is also called "Ohel Moed". The Hebrew word moed can refer to a set time or to a set place. Time and place are the two aspects of man's meeting with the world. This meeting becomes sanctified by virtue of the sanctity of Israel who sanctify time, and by virtue of the sanctity of the Mikdash, the heart of the world.


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