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THE TABERNACLE IN ALL OF US

by Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Interestingly, this week's Torah portion of Terumah, which deals exclusively with the construction of the mishkan (Tabernacle), always falls out in the same week as the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar.

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Interestingly, this week's Torah portion of Terumah, which deals exclusively with the construction of the mishkan (Tabernacle), always falls out in the same week as the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar. We also find that references to the mitzvah of Shabbat are interspersed throughout the account of the mishkan over the next several weeks, implying some significant connection between the two mitzvot. What then is the common thread connecting the mishkan, the month of Adar, and the mitzvah of Shabbat?

In this week's portion, the Torah writes, "They shall make for Me a sanctuary (mishkan), so that I (Hashem) may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8). Rashi, the classic medieval Torah commentator, simply states that they should do this "for all generations".

At first glance, this appears to be rather perplexing. The verse should have said, "so that I may dwell in it", referring to the mishkan which was the subject of the sentence. One would naturally assume that the purpose of the mishkan was to create a place in which Hashem's presence could be concentrated. Why instead does the verse shift its focus in the middle from the mishkan to the Jewish populace? Furthermore, what does Rashi mean by stating that this mitzvah is "for all generations"? Granted that all of the mitzvot are eternal and the Torah never becomes outdated, but how are we capable of fulfilling the mitzvot regarding the mishkan even today?

Upon closer inspection, these questions really answer one another. Hashem wants us to make ourselves into a walking mishkan, to construct out of our physical bodies and lives a place in which He can dwell. Of course there is an actual and tangible mishkan to be built, but in times like today when we have no physical Holy Temple (and we are incapable of building one until the arrival of the Mashiach, Messiah), we can still fulfill this mitzvah in its root source by transforming ourselves into a fitting receptacle in which Hashem can dwell. This is why the verse reads, "They shall make for Me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them." Rashi therefore comments that this mitzvah is "for all generations". It is applicable even at those times when we do not have the physical structure of the mishkan, for we each have the power to create our own sanctuary within ourselves.

Still, the question remains - what is the mishkan's connection to the month of Adar and the mitzvah of Shabbat? Interestingly, the Hebrew word "Adar" can be divided to read "Aluf Dar - Hashem dwells". This month is a time when Hashem dwells especially closer to us. It is no coincidence that every Torah portion read during the month of Adar deals with the dwelling place of Hashem in our midst - the mishkan.

In this dimension, the holy day of Shabbat is the mishkan of time. Shabbat is a day dedicated to the spiritual, to realize how happy our lot is, that Hashem chose us from all of the other nations. It is a time for introspection, a time to contemplate who we are, where we are headed, and what our relationship is to our Creator.

This then is the joy of the month of Adar. As our sages say, "With the entering of the month of Adar, we increase our joy." The joy of Adar is to realize that we have the Torah and mitzvot, and that we have the wonderful opportunity to serve Hashem. Little us are allowed to extol praises to Hashem. This frame of mind causes Hashem to dwell within each of us, transforming ourselves into a "walking mishkan" dedicated to doing Hashem's will in joy.

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Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman writes from Atlanta.

You are invited to read more Parshat Terumah articles.

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