Monday, February 4, 2008

Parshat Teruma- Make For Me a House

This week's parsha, Teruma, records G-d's command to Moses to instruct the Children of Israel to donate freely as much wealth as they would like and to contribute to the building of G-d's House, the portable tabernacle known as the Mishkan. The Torah states that the purpose of the contributions of the Jewish people was that they should "make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst" (Exodus 25:8). G-d does not say that the Israelites should make Him a sanctuary so that He will dwell in it, but rather that He desires to dwell in our midst. The Hebrew reads "ve'shachanti betocham", G-d wants each and every one of us to build a home for Him that He should dwell in it.

The Midrash (Tanchuma, Naso 16) relates to us that HaShem's purpose in creating the world was to have a dwelling place for Himself in the lower realms, the physical world. G-d had created untold spiritual splendor in the highest of heavens, with myriads of flawless angels and attendants proclaiming before Him, "holy, holy holy is the Lord of Hosts, the entre earth is filled with His glory!" (Isaiah 6:3), and yet, this supreme and intense kedusha was simply not enough for G-d. Angels have no free will or evil inclination and have no choice as to serve G-d or not. HaShem desired something more, a creature that could choose between good and evil and willingly subjugate his heart in the service of the Almighty. For this reason, G-d created the physical world, and man within it so that he should elevate the mundane and make it spiritual. "The heavens are the heavens of the LORD; but the earth hath He given to the children of men," (Psalms 115:16) the heavens have already been prefected by G-d but it is our duty as human being to make the earth a fitting dwelling place for HaShem.

What a daunting task! How can one person even conceive of perfecting the entire earth for HaShem, the Lord of Hosts? And yet, HaShem never asks the impossible of us. HaShem said to the Children of Israel "Behold, unto HaShem your G-d belongs the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all that therein is... for HaShem your G-d is the G-d of gods and the Lord of lords, the great G-d, the mighty, and the awesome, who regards not persons, nor accepts bribes." (Deut. 10:14-17) And despite G-d's exalted status, His great awesome unknowable essence, "what does HaShem your G-d require of you, but to fear HaShem your G-d, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve HaShem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul" (ibid. 12). All that G-d asks of us is that we should serve Him and to walk in His ways, that we should make ourselves worthy of His presence.

Whenever a Jew lays on tefillin or says a blessing, he brings G-d's presence down into the world. Whenever he proclaims the Sh'mah and serves as a witness to G-d's absolute unity, he perfects the world in the kingdom of the Almighty. Whenever a person performs a good deed or an act of kindness, they create a dwelling place for G-d in this world. Let us all commit ourselves to bringing heaven at least slightly closer to earth in our own special way.

Cross-posted to Goat's Barnyard