Did you know that your heart can be your temple, your brain can be your temple, your energy can be your temple, and your home can be your temple?
Several months after showing Himself to the Jewish nation at Sinai, G-d instructed Moses to build Him a Temple. At Sinai, every Jew saw G-d and the results were catastrophic. Seeing G-d, unleashes an energy so intense that it places your very survival in question. Unless you are conditioned to survive it, as the prophets were, you are likely to expire. This is precisely what happened to the Jews at Sinai. Every time G-d spoke, it released a torrent of energy so powerful that the Jews died on the spot.
G-d resurrected them using the very technique with which He will resurrect the dead when Mashiach comes. He went and collected every Jewish body and revived it. Thus, fully restored, the Jews stood ready to hear the next commandment, and when it came, the blow and its results were just as fierce.
G-d finally decided that no matter how beneficial it is to see G-d directly, He would transmit the rest of the commandments to Moses and let Moses relay it to the people. It was enough that they saw G-d directly twice. It gave them all the energy and impetus they would need to push forward in the days ahead despite the many allures and temptations of this world. Now it was time to dial it back. Otherwise, it would be a constant cycle of death and resurrection. There was no point in that.
Fast forward several months, and G-d tells Moses to build a Tabernacle. Make a temple for me, a place with a Holy of Holies where I will dwell. I will be there in my full glory, but only those who are up to the task, will see me. Moses will see me whenever he comes to speak to me. Aaron will see me on Yom Kippur, when He enters the Holy of Holies. Otherwise, no one will see me. They will benefit from my proximity, but they won’t be overwhelmed by it as they were at Sinai.
Just having G-d in our proximity is beneficial. Even the simple fact that we know G-d is here uplifts and empowers us. So, even if the Jews would not see G-d in the Holy of Hollies, they would benefit from His presence there. Thus, G-d had Moses construct a temple for Him.
This worked well as long as the Temple stood. But the time came when the Temple would be destroyed. Going forward, there would be no place on earth where G-d could manifest in His full glory. The only way to interact with G-d would be from a distance—from behind a veil that would obscure His face. In the words of our mystics, G-d ascended to a place beyond the above.
Yet, G-d did not abandon us G-d forbid. Our sages assured us that when G-d allowed His temple to be destroyed, He left the Holy of Holies and settled wherever Jews study Torah. That is so astounding that I will repeat it just so that you know you read it correctly. When G-d allowed His temple to be destroyed, He left the Holy of Holies and settled wherever Jews study Torah. The four cubits around the Jew who studies Torah is as holy as the Holy of Hollies.
There is a slight difference. The Holy of Hollies was demonstrably holy. This is why only the High Priest was permitted to enter. However, the space around a Torah student is not demonstrably holy. You can’t sense anything different about this space. Yet we are told that G-d’s presence is palpable there.
What is the point of knowing this fact if we can’t feel it? The answer is that if we know it, we can prepare ourselves for it. And though we won’t see it, we can still experience the awe and the thrill. Before you sit down to study the Torah, contemplate G-d’s nearness. Remind yourself that as soon as you begin to study, G-d will descend from on high and dwell in your presence.
So long as you fill your vicinity with the sounds of Torah study, G-d will remain. Your words will carry G-d’s thoughts and His will. So long as His thoughts are heard and felt around you, G-d Himself is there.
The very thought that you will play host to G-d, will move you. G-d will dwell in your brain as you study the Torah. G-d will dwell in your heart as you pray and your heart swells with emotion for Him. G-d will dwell in your arm and when you give money to the poor.
This literally transforms you into a host for G-d. The Holy of all Hollies, the King of all Kings, chooses to dwell in your mind and heart. All you need to do is clear some space for Him. Rid yourself of all distracting thoughts, no matter how important they are, and focus on the Torah you are studying.
You can bring G-d with you when you are sitting in your study hall, and you can bring Him with you when you are walking the street. So long as your mind is filled with thoughts of Torah, you are streaming G-dliness. You are a walking host for G-d. You are a walking Holy of Hollies.
If you think of Torah study this way, and if you meditate on this before you begin your studies, your study will never be the same. It will not be about understanding a difficult text or a complex subject. It won’t be about mastering a concept or explaining a theory. It will be about channeling G-d’s pure holiness and making a home for Him.
It will be about transforming your body into a temple for G-d. Your brain will be His home, your heart will be His love, and your energy will be His temple. He will walk through you, study through you, and give to charity through you. You will be G-d’s consummate host.
The Contemporary Tabernacle
When we read the Torah portion this week, we will sense excitement that our ancestors felt on that fateful day when they completed the Tabernacle and made a temple for G-d. We will feel a tinge of jealousy wanting to know why we can’t build a temple for G-d as they did. And we will know that we can. All we need to do is study the Torah. Study it properly and purely, and you will build your temple.
But it is more than just creating temporary temples for G-d that fade after you complete your studies. You see, one of the reasons that G-d allowed His Temple to be destroyed is that He wanted us to build many mini-Temples for Him throughout the world instead of having one big Temple in Jerusalem.
When G-d was in the Temple in Jerusalem, He was in one place. His glory spread from there throughout the world, but it wasn’t the same throughout the world as it was in the Temple. There was only one Holy of Hollies.
After the Temple was destroyed, G-d gained many Holies of Holies. Wherever a Jew studies Torah, G-d sets up a miniature Temple. These temples don’t go away when we stop studying. The environment that was made sacred by G-d’s presence, remains sacred. The temple you build through your Torah study remains your temple even after you finish your studies. Then when you move to another place and study there, you build a new temple. Now you have two temples. Then three, and four, etc.
The same applies to every Jew throughout the world. Over time, G-d’s sanctity spreads until it blankets the entire world. And when that will occur, G-d will open our eyes and allow us to see Him throughout.
That is the plan, and we await its implementation every day. Because the day that this occurs, is the day that Mashiach will arrive.
Rabbi Eliezer (Lazer) Gurkow, currently serving as rabbi of congregation Beth Tefilah in London, Ontario, is a well-known speaker and writer on Torah issues and current affairs.