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Parshas Teruma - Welcome to Shul!                   3 Adar 5780

02/28/20 09:21:27


We started off as a small family forced to evacuate and leave town. We ended up in a foreign land which at the beginning was very good because Hashem had arranged for the infrastructure to be there before we arrived. While it was a nice place, perhaps we overstayed our welcome, because the locals seemed to grow unhappy with our continued presence. Without actually telling us outright, they clearly implied, “You want to stay longer? Fine, but from now on under our conditions and our rules.” Within a short period of time, we were no longer enjoying our lives. We were oppressed with long hours of extremely hard, physical labor and unbearable living conditions. At our wits end and not knowing what else to do, as a last resort we just yelled out to our Father until He heard us and began making plans for us to leave.

We left abruptly with little time to pack provisions needed for our family which had not grown to a few million people with no clear direction as to where and how to flee. We wandered for forty-nine days, traveling through a river, a desert and finally ending up under a mountain where we were given an opportunity to accept upon ourselves a mandate that would unite us and bring our dispersed family back together again. Our now united, large family needed to have a central location where we could always be near our Father. We were commanded to make a house for our Father which would sit in the center of the entire camp/community/family. Unfortunately, it did not take long for differences of opinion and different desires to bubble up the surface.

My Rebbi/Rosh Yeshiva Rav Berel Wein YB”L always joked over serious matters. One of his many famous insights was regarding the time davening would begin in the Beis HaMikdash and whose nusach/text was to be used. Every group or sect emphatically felt that their customs would be the ones used in the Temple, and the time they preferred to begin and conclude would obviously be the choice to be followed. It is important to highlight a fact that we Jews do get along well with each other when under attack, times of duress and when facing a common enemy. Fortunately, however, there are times when we do not face an existential threat from our enemies and that, unfortunately, is when we become our own worst enemies. Until now the Jewish people are, by and large, okay with each other; when our families come to Shul, we often go our own way to daven, to learn, or to play.

I remember watching a Jewish video about twenty years ago about the Jewish family. One of the scenes (obviously staged for the video) focused on entire families – parents, children, other relatives - arriving and leaving Shul all together on Shabbos. This was clearly beautiful, symbolic gesture suggesting that every family, along with the entire community did one and the same thing together, strengthening themselves individually as a family and also collectively as a community. The image stuck in my head of family members holding hands, talking and walking happily together to and from Shul. The Shul/Synagogue is a central point of families bonding in a common effort that establishes and maintains a Jewish community. This is due to the center of our attention being Hashem, residing in the Mishkan which is in the center.

In this week’s sedra Teruma the Torah states in Shmos 26:1 "ואת המשכן תעשה עשר יריעות שש משזר ותכלת וארגמן ותולעת שני כרובים מעשה חושב תעשה אותם" “ - Make the tabernacle out of ten large tapestries consisting of twined linen, and sky blue, dark red, and crimson wool, with a pattern of cherubs woven into them”. Reb Yakov Krantz of Dubno (1741-1804), famously known as the Dubno Maggid, in his sefer Ohel Yakov explains the “Mishkan” in the following manner. The Midrash Yalkut Shmoni describes Hashem speaking to Moshe, “Make a Mishkan for Me because I desire to dwell close to my children.” When the angels heard this, they asked the Master of the Universe, “Why do you go down to that lower world? Your honor and praise is here with us in heaven.” Hashem responded, “By your life should I do as you say? Rather my praise is to fill the world.” The Dubno Maggid explains that there are some people who, like the angels, say that Hashem is so high, so great and holy, that it is beneath His dignity to place His essence among this world. The lower world that we are in is a drop in the bucket compared to the upper spheres and higher worlds. The truth is that God’s presence even in the upper world is not enough to meet Hashem’s greatness. The upper worlds are zero in comparison to Hashem, and with all of that He still wants to lower Himself to lead the world. This is because He wants everyone to know and recognize His reality in the world and that He alone runs the world.

In the previous discussion of the Yalkut, the angels missed the point of God’s decision to be in the lower world. They [the angels] exclaimed that God’s praise is only here with us in heaven. Hashem responded to the angels that the upper world, all the heavens, are also beneath the honor of Hashem. Hashem told the angels that His will is not limited to the upper world; it includes the lower world as well. Hashem’s desire is to fill all of the worlds He created.

The Shla”h HaKadosh Rav Yeshaya Horowitz explains this in a similar vein. We recite in Hallel a verse from Tehilim 113:6: “Who is like Hashem, our God who dwells on high, yet looks down so low in the heavens and upon the earth?” Even though He is so high, He desires to come down to be with us in His lower world. To Hashem, being that He is above all, both the heavens and the earth are below. He therefore seeks to fill the entire universe, even the areas that appear lower but are nevertheless part of the entire world, with His presence. God wants to be a part of our lives, to reveal Himself to each and every one of us. We have the obligation to recognize Hashem throughout the world. When we build our Shuls, homes and continuously strive to build up ourselves, allowing Hashem to come down and to be a part of our lives, enlightening us and expanding our awareness and awe of the majesty of Hashem so we can more profoundly appreciate the entirety of God’s existence.

Thu, October 1 2020 13 Tishrei 5781