HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich
The language employed by the biblical verse, and they shall take for me an offering (Exodus 25:1), the heavenly charge to the Jewish community to contribute to the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) is greatly expounded upon in Midrashic literature.
The language employed by the biblical verse, and they shall take for me an offering (Exodus 25:1), the heavenly charge to the Jewish community to contribute to the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) is greatly expounded upon in Midrashic literature. Two of the ideas expressed will follow. On the surface, the thread weaving these comments together is not so apparent, but upon closer examination, a critical idea offering direction for Jewish living emerges.
The first Midrash reports G-d imploring the Jewish people to carefully adhere to the words of the Torah. Take heed not to forsake the Torah, beseeches G-d of His children, for within it is contained everything essential for life.
Another Midrash expounding on this verse explains for us, in the form of a parable, Hashems instructions to have a Mishkan erected. The Midrash tells of a heartsick king who is soon to lose his beloved daughter in marriage to a worthy prince. She is his only daughter; he loves her dearly, but he knows she must depart with her new husband to his homeland. The king summons the prince and says, I know I cannot keep my daughter from returning with you. However, I cannot bear to be separated from her. Please build for me a small home near you so I can maintain a closeness with my beloved daughter.
In a similar vein, says the Midrash, are G-ds feelings towards His precious Torah. G-d knows that the Torah must be given to Man. It must leave the heavenly realm. However, G-d seeks to retain close proximity to His beloved Torah. Therefore, He directs us to erect a Mishkan, a small place of residence for His presence, so He can maintain a closeness to His holy Torah that dwells among us.
Rabbi Yosef Salant, a great Jerusalem sage who passed away two decades ago, poignantly observes that it is reasonable to presume that the king seeks closeness to his son-in-law as long as his daughter remains married to him. If the son-in-law rejects the kings daughter and sends her away, there is no longer a compelling reason for the king to live in the home his son-in-law has prepared for him.
Similarly, G-ds Divine presence and all the resultant blessings flowing from it seeks shelter in our Mishkan as long as the Torah can also be found there. If Torah attitudes and morality are ignored or substituted by more convenient social mores, then heaven forbid, G-ds presence, as well, may find no compelling reason to maintain close proximity within our midst.
These two Midrashim presented do, in fact, complement each other. Take heed to hold steadfast to My Torah; do not forsake it, pleads G-d with us. Otherwise I have no need to dwell amongst you, for my beloved Torah is nowhere to be found.
Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich has been a Torah educator at the Yeshiva High School of Atlanta for 16 years.
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