Terumah – Is G-d Seeking Shelter?
Making a Home for Hashem
This week’s Torah reading revolves around the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). God commanded the Jewish Nation (25:8), “And they shall make a sanctuary for Me and I shall dwell amongst them.” We must understand, God is not a physical being who needs a roof to dwell under. Thus, what is this major venture all about?
The Nefesh Hachaim writes (1:4) that the ultimate intention of God was not that a physical structure should be standing. Rather, the purpose was that we should turn ourselves into an abode for the Shechinah (Divine presence) to rest upon, through our actions. The physical Mishkan was meant primarily as a means to represent this concept. The Nefesh Hachaim continues and says that this idea is actually inferred in the language of the verse above. The verse does not say, “and I shall dwell in it,” which would seem to be the proper wording as referring to the Mishkan, rather is says, “and I shall dwell amongst them.” God is not seeking a place for Himself for his own sake. God is seeking that we make ourselves adequate for Him to bestow his presence amongst us.
There was once an old man named Velvel who used to remain in the synagogue studying Torah the entire week, day in and day out, only to go home at the end of the week. He used to learn with noticeable fervor and extreme diligence. One day, a young boy approached him and asked, “Please tell me, how did you acquire such an appetite for Torah?” The man said to the boy in response, “Gather the other boys around, it’s worth their while to hear the story too.” They gathered around him and he proceeded to tell them his story. When he was young boy, he attended the Volozin Yeshivah (school for Talmud study). He had a sharp mind, but was not serious about learning. Here and there he would share a brilliant insight which the Rosh Yeshiva (dean), the Beis Haleivy, enjoyed, but he never applied himself to his studies. One day, he approached a pair of study partners who were engrossed in their learning, and struck up conversation of idle talk with them. All of the sudden, he heard a familiar voice calling his name: “Velvele, Velvele. The Mishna says (Avos 3:7) that when two people sit together engaged in Torah study, the Shechinah rests between them, and you are coming to chase the Shechinah away?! This will not be tolerated in Volozin!” Velvel felt deeply ashamed about his actions. This wasn’t the first time he had chased the Shechinah away from Volozin, and he felt terrible about what he had done. In an effort to make up for his misdeeds, he decided that he was going to do all in his power to bring the Shechinah back to Volozin. With much determination, he applied himself with great diligence to studying Torah from then on with full force. And indeed, he started enjoying his learning immensely. The more he learned, the more he enjoyed it, until he couldn’t part from it.
The fact the God chose to rest his presence amongst us is a reality, not just a metaphor. Although we are unfortunately lacking the Mishkan and Beis Hamikdash (the Holy Temple) to give us a tangible experience of this concept, the existence of His presence amongst us is as real as ever. However, this only holds true if we prepare ourselves properly to accommodate the Shechinah. God does not seek a place where there is foolishness and nonsense going on. The Shechinah is only attracted to a place where it feels welcome. Places where God’s word is adhered to, and people are leading meaningful and spiritually oriented lives in pursuit of Torah values, are the type of places where God’s presence is attracted to. A place where derogatory speech, inappropriate reading material or general ignorance of God’s will is found, is not a place where you will find the Shechinah. The question we all ought to ask ourselves is: Are we doing everything we can to welcome the Shechinah into our lives or are there practices we have which may be chasing away the Shechina? Who doesn’t want his home to be a place where God will call it His home too?
Parshas Terumah 5780/2020
email@example.com by Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber