"We are closer to G-d when we are asking the questions, than when we think we have the answers" Heschel

Thursday, March 11, 2010

To build a house for G-d: It doesn't get any better

FNQ Parsha Thought

Much ink has been spilled and kilobytes of memory consumed in an attempt to understand why the Torah describes the building of the Mishkan at such incredible length.  There are a few things that are troubling, including, the repetition (twice in full), the intricate details, and perhaps most perplexing, the measurements given for the Mishkan will never even be used again since the Beit Hamikdash, destined to be built in Jerusalem, has its own measurements that are not based on what is recorded in the parshiyot of Terumah, Tetzaveh, Vayakhel and Pekudai. Here is a thought on the puzzling matter of building the Mishkan.

Man must know that it is within his power to build a house for G-d. He not only has this capacity, but he is commanded to build this world into a dwelling place for the Divine. This notion is hard to believe in and even harder to understand.  A few questions that come to mind: How can the finite resources available to man house G-d who is infinite? Furthermore, if G-d wants to live in this world wouldn't He probably do a better job building a proper home? And finally, why does G-d want to dwell in this world in the first place?

To be honest, I don't really know what it means to build a dwelling place for G-d.  Maybe if I witnessed the supernatural events in the Temple or beheld the gathering of millions of Jews to celebrate the regalim I could begin to conceive of such a transcendent idea. Without these experiences the literal meaning of what a House of G-d looks or feels like remains but a dream. However, there is more to these parshiyot than just a commandment to build a National House for G-d. The commentators explain that the responsibility of creating a dwelling place for Hashem rests on every individual. Not only must we each build our own Houses for G-d, but we must realize that any revelation of G-d in the Beit Hamikdash is merely a sum total of all the G-dliness that exists within our own miniature Temples.

The seemingly exhaustive repetition of the building of the Mishkan is to emphasize its essential role in the life of a Jew. All of the mitzvot, Torah learning, and good deeds that we do are significant in that they serve to lay another brick for our personal and collective Houses of G-d. The endless details in the parsha are meant to make it clear that if you want to build a house for G-d it must be on His terms and with incredible precision. The sturdiness of spiritual buildings, like physical ones, is dependent on the architect's commitment to detail.  The Torah serves as our blueprint and we depend on it for guidance and direction in order to progress towards the Divinely promised ribbon cutting at the end of days.

There are days when I see neither personal or national advancement in this most holy of endeavors. It is often difficult to envision that the sublime edifice will ever be complete. But we continue to build, brick by brick and tile by tile. We build with faith and commitment to our goal and with joy that we play such a vital role in the greatest task in which man has ever been involved. Good Shabbos.

What do you think?

Binyamin – always looking for a good question

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