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Friday - Shabbat, February 4 - 5 Parshat Terumah 

Torah Reading: Terumah (Exodus  25:1 - 27:19)
Candle Lighting  4:58 PM
Shabbat ends 6:01 PM

The Hut, Booth and House

This week’s parsha is the first of several that feature the commandment to contribute to the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary in the desert. The Mishkan was but the first in a series of structures that were to serve as Sanctuaries through which G‑d’s presence would spread to the entire world.

The key phrase that introduces this commandment is: “And you shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I shall dwell in them.” Our Sages apply this verse—that employs the plural “in them”—to the Sanctuary each and every one of us must make in our own heart. Every Jew must become a sanctuary for the Divine presence.

The Midrash provides three parables to help us understand the role of the Mishkan. It is self-understood that these three parables must also serve as guides toward the objective of creating our own personal sanctuary.

The Midrash on the aforementioned verse, “Make for Me a sanctuary” states:

Said the Holy One Blessed is He to Israel: “You are My sheep… and I am the Shepherd. Construct a hut  for the Shepherd so that He may come and shepherd you. You are a vineyard… and I am its Guard… Construct a Sukkah [booth] for the guard so that He may guard you. You are children… and I am your Father… It is an honor when children are near their father, and it is an honor when the father is near his children. Construct a house for the Father so that He may dwell among His children. Thus it says, “Make for Me a Sanctuary.”

Radal [R. Dovid Luria, a nineteenth century commentator] explains that these three parables—hut, booth and house—parallel the three Sanctuaries: The Mishkan of the desert, the Mishkan of Shiloh (see, for example, Shmuel I chapter 1) and the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

A shepherd’s hut is constantly being transported from one place to another along with the sheep that seek pasture in new places. Similarly, the Mishkan traveled with the Jewish people as they wandered through the wilderness for almost forty years and for an additional fourteen years that it took them to settle the Land of Israel.

The booth for the guard of the vineyard is stationary. But it is only a semi-permanent structure, for it is not what the guard calls home. This parallels the Mishkan of Shiloh whose walls were made out of stone, but the roof consisted of the same cloth coverings of the Mishkan, suggesting this Sanctuary’s semi-permanent structure.

The third parable of the permanent house built for the father is the analogy for the Holy Temple in Jerusalem which remained the final “dwelling” for G‑d, never to be replaced or moved to another location.

An earlier work known as the Akeidah  (15th century) applies the three metaphors in a slightly different fashion:

The transportable booth of the shepherd, he writes, corresponds to all of the structures up until, but not including, the building of the Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem because they were all essentially not permanent locations for G‑d’s dwelling place amongst us.

The first Two Temples, which were eventually destroyed, are best represented by the analogy of the semi-permanent vineyard booth, for these Temples enjoyed some measure of relative permanence.

However, the third analogy—the house built for the father—is best represented by the future third Temple to be built by Moshiach. This future Sanctuary will never be destroyed!

There is still a need to understand why the three categories of Sanctuaries are compared to the hut for a shepherd, a booth for the guard of a vineyard, and a house for the father, respectively.

The Shepherd in the Hut: A Response to Degeneration

The Mishkan, about which we read in this week’s parsha, was built in response to the Jewish people’s degeneration into the worshipping of the golden calf. In this regard the Mishkan—as well as future Temples that were modeled after the Mishkan—served as a means to protect us—G‑d’s flock—from physical and spiritual destruction in the same way a shepherd protects his flock from harm.

According to Maimonides, in his Guide for the Perplexed, sacrifices were introduced to the Jewish people as a means to wean them off idolatrous practices that involved sacrifices. In his Mishneh Torah, however, Maimonides stresses the supra-rational spiritual nature of sacrifices. They were clearly more than just educational tools to condition them to serve one G‑d instead of the many pagan gods they worshipped in the past.

One way of reconciling the apparently contradictory approaches Maimonides took about the nature of sacrifices in the Temple is to distinguish between the original and early formative years of the Jewish people and the latter more mature state of the Jewish nation. Alternatively, these two opposite objectives of sacrifices were directed at two segments of the Jewish community:  those who are spiritual novices and those who have gained more spiritual sophistication.

However, this function of a Mishkan is by definition a temporal one. In the days of Moshiach, G‑d will have removed all impurity and iniquity from the world. We will no longer require the offerings in the Temple that were brought as atonements for our sins. And we will no longer have to wean ourselves off of the idolatrous ways of our ancestors.

Hence the Midrash tells us that in the future Messianic Age the only private sacrifice that will still need to be offered will be the thanksgiving sacrifice. No matter how good things will be then, we will still offer thanks to G‑d for the constantly improving situation.

The Shepherd in the Booth: Channels our Passion

The analogy of the shepherd who protects his flock relates to the aspect of the Temple that protected us from falling into the trap of idolatry in both the literal as well the figurative sense of the word. This function will cease to be needed as we progress and mature. But before that occurs, the metaphor of a hut erected for a shepherd is an apt one since this function is only of a temporary nature.

This then is why the Midrash introduces a more advanced function of the various Sanctuaries by providing  a second analogy for the Sanctuary: It is like the guard who protects the vineyard.

A vineyard is a place that produces the most significant of beverages—wine. Wine is a source of joy and increases passion, often to the point of intoxication. Spiritually speaking, wine represents the spiritual energies that we imbibe when we access the inner dimension of Torah. These teachings, when taught to those who are yet ill-prepared for them or when they are taken too far—have proven to be destructive. The primary example of this was the death of Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, when, in their spiritually intoxicated state at the time of the dedication of the Mishkan, got too close to their Divine source. As a result their souls literally left their bodies.

In other words, the Temple, served simultaneously and paradoxically as the greatest source of spiritual inspiration and exultation as well as the “booth” that protected those who entered its precincts. The Temple saved people from the harmful effects that could result from one’s inability to curb and control their passion. G‑d’s purpose in having the Jews build the Sanctuary was to make the world a hospitable place for Him - not to detach oneself from the world - even if it is for the purpose of getting close to G‑d. The Temple, while it uplifts us, nevertheless also brings us back down to earth.

But, even these two goals which were realized by the Beit Hamikdash —protecting us both from harm that comes from sin and simultaneously from misguided spirituality—were of a temporal nature. Even in the days of the two Temples, when the Divine Presence rested amongst us, the world was still not fully receptive of the Divine. It was still possible for Jews to come to the Temple during the three pilgrimage holidays, take in the intense G‑dly energy, and still emerge into the outside world just as vulnerable as they were before they entered.

In the days of the First Temple the level of Divine light that was generated was so intense that it overwhelmed the people. It was therefore not able to be fully internalized within them.  During the Second Temple era, the spiritual level was more in tune with the capacity of the people to feel and absorb its influence. However, since it was a more filtered measure of G‑dly light it did not possess the same awesome power to totally transform either the macro- or micro-world. Both Temples were ultimately destroyed.

The Third Temple: The Father is at Home

The third Temple, Chassidic thought teaches us, will encompass the positive attributes of the two Temples of the past. It will unleash the most sublime G‑dly energy, even beyond that which was revealed in the first Temple era. Yet, simultaneously, we will be fully capable of receiving, absorbing, internalizing and retaining these transcendent forces. We will have, as they say, the best of both worlds. That will preclude even the possibility of the Temple and its concomitant effects to ever be terminated or even diminished.

We can now understand why the Midrash, when referring to the third analogy of the father who has a house built to be with his son, states that: “It is an honor for the sons to be with their father and an honor for a father to be with his sons.”

The dual honor the Midrash speaks of can be said to allude to the two paradoxical features of the future third Temple:

On the one hand it will reveal G‑d’s honor and glory to His children in an unprecedented fashion even as it will reveal the unprecedented spiritual capacity and honor of the children. In the Messianic Age, G‑d and the Jewish people will enjoy a harmonious relationship because the essence of both will be fully revealed. And at the level of the “essence” there is absolute unity between our Heavenly Father and ourselves.

In our own lives, we must create a Sanctuary for G‑d which serves a threefold function of: a) protecting us from sin and its negative consequences; b) protect ourselves from the misguided spiritual journeys that an inspired person may take; c) creating a warm and inviting atmosphere in our lives and homes to make us fully receptive to Moshiach and Redemption.

But how do we achieve these goals specifically in these last days of exile?

The Midrash provides us with an answer to this question. The Midrash’s comments that were just expounded are linked to the specific commandment to make the Ark that contained the Tablets. The Ark and the Tablets connote the study of the Torah.

More specifically, the Tablets in which the Ten Commandments were engraved refer to the aspect of Torah that deals with Redemption. This assertion is based on the word “charut-engraved” which is cognate to the word “cheirut”, which means freedom. This is an allusion to the part of Torah that is liberating. In general terms this includes the mystical teachings of Torah such as Kabbalah and Chassidut, which were previously hidden from us. In addition, these spiritual teachings have the capacity to unlock and liberate the hidden dimensions of our souls. But, more specifically, the “engraved/liberating” component of Torah refers to the parts of Torah that deal explicitly with the theme of Redemption.

Thus, the method that we were given to achieve all of these goals is the study of Torah, specifically the teachings about Moshiach and Redemption. The Torah helps us cultivate the mindset that liberates us from and makes us impervious to sin, puts controls on the soul’s desire to disengage from the world, and helps us shape and mold our lives to be in complete harmony with the Divine. These three approaches taken together prepare us for the imminent revelation of Moshiach and the building of the third Beit Hamikdash.

Moshiach Matters  

The prophet tells us that “Just as in the days of your going out of Egypt, I will show you miracles.” This includes the fact that as the Jews left Egypt they were given riches, gold and jewels by the Egyptians. Similarly now, as we prepare to go out of exile together with Moshiach, every Jew deserves to be rich, and  G‑d certainly blesses each of us to become wealthy. Therefore, we should strive to become rich spiritually, with many Mitzvos - and we should also strive to be wealthy on a material level. (The Rebbe, Shabbat Trumah, 1992)

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