In this week's Torah portion G‑d commands the Jewish people to build a sanctuary for Him, a place where the only activity will be to serve Him:

"Make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them. In every way that I show you the form of the sanctuary [Tabernacle] and the form of all its vessels, so you should make it." (Ex. 25:8-9)

There are two classic questions: first, why does the verse use the word "sanctuary" (in Hebrew, "mikdash") and not simply state "Build for me a house that will serve as a temple"? What is the verse trying to teach us? Secondly, why does it say "…and I will dwell among them" rather than "I will dwell in it"?

The Jewish people were commanded to create a copy of the spiritual, supernal Temple in this world….

The Baal Shem Tov explains that there is much more going on here than is apparent. The holy books of the Kabbalah explain that everything that exists in this physical world is a copy of something that exists in the higher, more spiritual worlds. In fact the Jewish people were commanded to create a copy of the spiritual, supernal Temple in this world with physical materials so that it, the lower physical Temple, should be a vehicle to accomplish the purposes of the higher, supernal Temple. This is why the verse says "Make for Me a sanctuary [a holy place]" and does not just say "Make Me a house", because the commandment was to copy the supernal temple. In human terms the verse is teaching us that every time a person acts in a holy way, he becomes a vehicle for the Divine.

The entire world is G‑d's Temple and each of us is a participant in its construction….

Where can the likes of us, creations of flesh and blood, find the power to build a Temple for G‑d that will be a physical replica of the supernal Temple? This can be explained by the words "…and I will dwell among them" - among each and every participant in the construction. The entire world is G‑d's Temple and each of us is a participant in its construction. G‑d guarantees that He will have His Divine Presence shine on them so that they can make the Temple in the form of the supernal Temple. All you have to do is be one of "them". Be ready to participate in the construction, and G‑d will dwell among you.


This week's Torah reading includes the verse:

"And you should make the beams for the Tabernacle, from standing shittim wood" (Ex. 26:15).

Part of the Tabernacle was beams of shittim wood. The root of the word "shittim" is from the word "shita", meaning "leaning". The shittim tree is so tall that it can not support itself, but rather leans to one side or the other. The abstract principle here is that there is a "middle", and movement to either side is called "shita" or "leaning".

Holy foolishness…is to serve G‑d in a way that is higher than reason….

The Hebrew word "shtut", meaning "foolishness", comes from the same root. Foolishness is also leaning. The middle path of life is the path of logic and intellect. Leaning downwards is called "unholy foolishness" - "shtut de'klipa", and leaning upwards is called "holy foolishness" - "shtut de'kedusha". Unholy foolishness is that very same spirit that causes a person to sin. As the Talmud says, "Only a person with a spirit of foolishness commits a transgression." (Sotah 3) Holy foolishness, on the other hand, is to serve G‑d in a way that is higher than reason and understanding (like self-sacrifice or being fair when reason tells you to take advantage).

We learn this from the Talmud where the elder Rabbi Yitzchak attained great honor by dancing in front of a bride and groom with myrtle branches (Ketubot 17). There the Talmud discusses the reason for the honor he received, one reasoning being that the Heavenly honor afforded him was due to his "foolishness". One way to look at life is to realize that our entire purpose is to transform those of our actions that are unholy foolishness to the wood of the standing shittim trees - holy foolishness. We accomplish this every time we succeed in turning our will power away from something bad to something good. May our days be filled with holy foolishness.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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