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by Micah Gimpel    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"They shall make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8).



"They shall make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8).

This dramatic line, found at the beginning of the Torah portion delineating the structure of all the major components of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), anticipates the ambitious mission of the Jewish people of having Hashem dwell on earth. However, as King Solomon reflected after he built the Temple, "But will Hashem dwell on earth? Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain You, how much less this house that I have built!" (I Kings 8:27). In truth, the Torah specifies that with our constructing the Mishkan, Hashem will not dwell in it, but rather within the Jewish people. The physical edifice provides only the medium for Hashem to descend from above, and the actual building does not become Hashem's limiting home. But still, how can our building of the Mishkan, a physical structure, bridge Hashem to us? How can an inanimate object function as the link between the finite and the infinite?

The Netziv, the rosh yeshiva (dean) of the outstanding 19th century Lithuanian Yeshiva of Volozhin, noticed the Torah's emphasis in the above verse on our role in bringing Hashem to the people - "they shall make". Hashem's residing on earth is not guaranteed from merely having a Mishkan, but only from our building it. Our proactive measure in constructing the Mishkan helps us merit Hashem's presence. Our intensive involvement is demonstrated by our creating a place worthy of Hashem; "they shall make a sanctuary for Me" of stature and respect in order that I will be able to dwell among them. In fulfilling the command to build the Mishkan, we actively search for a way to bring Hashem into our lives. After we have built Hashem's house, then Hashem fulfills His promise that "I will dwell among them". When the Jewish people build the Mishkan, Hashem, almost as a reward, resides in our camp, but we must initiate the encounter.

In truth, the passage points to both a pro-actionary and reactionary relationship between our making the Mishkan and Hashem's dwelling in our midst. Hashem responds to our search, but without our triggering He cannot react. And both perspectives demand from us an active role in providing the opportunity for Heaven to be on earth. Not only must we be determined in our path, but we must successfully reach and find our destination, creating the bridge of Hashem's travel. Therefore, the command that "they shall make" is complimented and rewarded by Hashem's, "I will dwell".

Although the success is gauged by the result, the rigorous process determines the quality of the achievement. Our sages in Ethics of Our Fathers (2:21) stress the significance of the path beyond the obvious importance of the goal: "It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, yet you are not free to desist from it." Even when the goal seems unattainable and unrealistic, we must continue along the path. The traveling is as important as the destination; indeed, it molds the destination and sets the tone. When building the Mishkan, we must build it with sincerity, determination, and desire which color it with truth, potential, and effectiveness. This house, built on the foundation of our drive and commitment, must earn Hashem's respect. Accordingly, the reformulation of King Solomon's almost rhetorical question adds, "Does Hashem really dwell on earth with Man?" (II Chronicles 6:18). The emphasis on Hashem's place with Man illustrates our significant role. Hashem will dwell with Man only when the house built signifies our intent and desire to have Him with us.


Micah Gimpel, a native Atlantan and graduate of Yeshiva Atlanta, is a senior at Yeshiva University in New York.

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