Torah Fax
Friday, February 7, 2003 - 5 Adar I, 5763

Torah Reading: Terumah (Exodus 25:1 - 27:19)
Candle Lighting Time: 5:02 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:04 PM

The Real Thing

Our Parshah deals with the commandment to build a Mishkan, or sanctuary. The purpose of the Mishkan was to serve as G‑d's "house," a manifestation of G‑d's presence in our physical, mundane world. It was also the place where sacrifices were made: where Torah was taught to the nation and where the tablets of the Ten Commandments were stored. In a word, the Mishkan was the focal point of spiritual guidance and practice for the Jewish people.

For the forty years that the Jews sojourned in the desert, they were to have this portable sanctuary with them and in fact erect it at the center of their encampment. In addition, the Mishkan was used for the first sixteen years that the Israelites were in the Land of Israel while they were involved in conquering and settling the Land. Once the situation in Israel stabilized, they built a more permanent structure in the city of Shiloh. This building, made of stone walls but covered with the fabric and leather roof of the Mishkan, lasted for 369 years. Similar Temple structures were built in the cities of Nov and Givon. These buildings stood for a total of fifty-seven years.

Finally, under the leadership of King Solomon, a permanent Temple structure was built in Jerusalem. After standing for 410 years, Solomon's Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. Seventy years later, a second Temple was built and it lasted for 420 years before it was ruined by the Romans.

The total number of years that all of these Temples (both permanent and temporary) stood is 1312 years. For the seventy years in between the two Temples (in Jerusalem) and for close to 2,000 years since the Romans destroyed the second Temple, the Jewish people have not been able to fulfill this most fundamental Mitzvah of making a sanctuary for G‑d.

Our sages have taught, however, that there are many ways in which we can capture the spirit of the Mishkan, and create a substitute dwelling place for G‑d. Synagogues, known as Mikdeshai Me'at, miniature sanctuaries, are places where G‑d's presence is manifest and felt to a large degree. Other examples of "replacement Temples" discussed by our sages are prayer, Torah study and charity.

Moreover, our sages taught that each and every one of us has the capacity to make each of our hearts into a sanctuary for G‑d. Indeed, even in the times of Solomon, the intent of the Temple was to implant the awe and appreciation of G‑d that was received there into one's heart, permeating one's consciousness and soul. One who visited the Temple in Jerusalem did not leave feeling that G‑d was "there," in Jerusalem; he left with a new understanding and feeling of closeness to G‑d that stayed with him forever. Thus it is clear that a key component of the Temple's function - to make G‑d more relevant in our day to day lives - is something we can (and must) attempt to do today as well.

Yet, notwithstanding all of the various substitutes we have for the Mitzvah of building the sanctuary, Jews have never ceased praying for the day that the Temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt.

Thousands of times each year we ask and beg G‑d for the physical reconstruction of the Temple. Three times each day we say "May the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days." Clearly, we are not content with a spiritual rendition of the Temple - we want to see it with our eyes.

But why is this the case? Why can't we be satisfied with a spiritual sanctuary that each of us must build in our own heart? Isn't that - as mentioned above - the intent of the physical Temple structure anyway? Why the need for a building if we have a place for G‑d in our hearts?

To explain by way of an analogy: picture a father and son who are separated from each other. They love each other very much and the separation is very painful. Whenever the parent would think of the times that he played with his child,  a great feeling of love for his son would swell up in his heart. Similarly, whenever the son would reflect on the wonderful moments he had spent with his father, feelings of love would well up inside of him.

Yet, warm feelings notwithstanding, it is clear that, when given the opportunity to reunite, neither parent nor child would say, "of what benefit is it for me to see my father/son? I already have great memories and warm feelings for him and these prove the strength of our relationship!" Nothing can ever replace the face to face reunion of two people who love each other.

It for this reason that, without regard to all the benefits that accrue from the various forms of spiritual substitutes for the Temple, Jews have never been satisfied with them. We have always emphasized the centrality and importance of having the actual Temple in Jerusalem - the place where we will be able to behold G‑d's presence in the most palpable way.

Moshiach Matters

Moshiach is a human being, born in normal fashion of human parents. The only qualification about his origins is that he is a descendant of King David, through the lineage of his son Solomon. From his birth onwards his righteousness will increase continually, and by virtue of his deeds he will merit sublime levels of spiritual perfection. (Rabbi J . I . Shochet, www.moshiach.com)

Moshiach - Its a Jewish issue. For more info, visit www.moshiach.com

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