<I>Shemini</I>: Dedication of the Mikdash

The Mikdash/Mishkan is the site where the Nation of Israel meets G-d. As such, it serves a dual function: G-d reveals Himself to us as a nation, through our serving Him in His sanctuary (see Parshat Tzav; Rambam, Hilchot Beit HaBechira 1:1).

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
The Mikdash/Mishkan is the site where the Nation of Israel meets G-d. As such, it serves a dual function: G-d reveals Himself to us as a nation, through our serving Him in His sanctuary (see Parshat Tzav; Rambam, Hilchot Beit HaBechira 1:1).

The first aspect, that of revelation, is an exalted, abstract, and objective matter. It finds expression through the practical and subjective service that we perform there. When the Divine Presence "descends" to this world, it undergoes extreme humiliation and diminution (Orot HaTeshuva 11:4). Our service may be viewed as construction of "tools" by means of which we are able to experience the Divine Presence, and so to raise "this-worldliness" back up to the level of G-dliness. It is as if the Divine Light is "primary," and human light is "reflected". The Holy One lowers a ladder from Heaven to Earth, and we climb it and meet Him as He descends that same ladder.

The means by which we achieve this revelation is the Mikdash, through the service of the shewbread and the menora - representing our national economy and culture (see Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, Kuzari 2:26). The service in the Mikdash encompasses all spheres of human endeavor. The workers are the Cohanim, who represent and are a part of the Nation of Israel. This may be compared to a hand that does work for, and is a part of, one's body. Furthermore, credit for the work done goes to the person, not to his hand.

In this week's parsha, after all the preparations described previously, we finally are ready to dedicate the Mishkan. The dedication takes the form of seven days of service by the Cohanim preceding the revelation of the Divine Presence. The Hebrew word for dedication - chanuka - comes from the same root as that for education - chinuch. The way to educate the nation to serve G-d is through performing the service.

Suddenly, as the Mishkan is being dedicated, something happens; Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aharon, are killed. The world is only straight and simple to a drunk; we who are sober see that one crisis follows another (see Mishlei 23:31 and Yoma 75a). Birth itself is the first crisis for each individual (see Nida 31:1).

Indeed, the prototype of all crises is the Creation of the world, which begins "without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep." (Genesis 1:2) All succeeding crises in this world are a result of the terrible descent from eternity and infinity to "formlessness and void."

Gradually, the world is reaching perfection, and each crisis it undergoes constitutes an essential, integral part of reality. Of course, each person is responsible for his own personal sins and imperfections, but in a world that is imperfect, these are unavoidable: "There is no saint in the land who does only good and never sins." (see Orot HaTeshuva 5:6)

The lesson to be learned here is how to react to crises. The philosophy of Judaism is not one of despair, but of hope. It is incumbent upon Man to overcome crises, and to utilize them as the mechanism that enables him to rise to higher spiritual levels. According to Eiruvin 63a, Nadav and Avihu sinned by introducing humanly lit fire into the Sanctuary, "a strange fire which He had not commanded them." (Leviticus 10:1) Fire represents energy - the power behind all human spiritual and physical action. Although their motivation was to serve G-d, their energy was not directed into the correct channels. The crisis of Nadav and Avihu teaches us how to relate to sanctity. No words could explain what was so vividly made clear by their tragedy. "And Aharon was silent." (Leviticus 10:3) Through internalization of this lesson, he was uplifted and privileged to experience prophecy on a higher level than previously (Rashi, op.cit.).

Although they strove to come close to G-d, the way that they chose was not one that G-d had commanded. Therefore, it was doomed to failure. Knowledge of the Absolute can only be achieved by absolute faithfulness to the Torah on our part.

[Translated by Bracha Slae. © 1997 Ateret Cohanim - The Jerusalem Reclamation Project. All rights reserved.]



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