Parshas Terumah: The Purpose of the Mishkan

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By Rabbi Naftoly Bier

HaRav Yerucham Levovitz זצ”ל taught that in this week’s portion we are inculcated with one of the major lessons of spiritual life!

The Torah delineates the exact measurements of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the מנורה (candelabrum), the שולחן (table for the showbreads), the ארון (ark)… If one would change the dimensions ever slightly, it would cause the “instrument” to be invalid. But why? It’s usable, still stunning in its beauty?

The answer is a resounding one. We have no conception whatsoever why it has to be so; just as we can’t fathom why תפילין has to be square, or why the תפילין של יד is in one compartment while the תפילין של ראש is in four; so too we have no idea why in order for the שכינה, the Divine Presence to be in the משכן, Tabernacle, requires these exact measurements! It is no different than a doctor who prescribes a medicine for a patient; will tell the pharmacist the exact amount to be dispensed. Adding or subtracting can cause a major difference to the patient’s health. Only Hashem, who is beyond our intellectual capacity and moreso, created His world with all its functioning dynamics, did so with exactitude, for anything less would be a lack of “אמת” and can’t exist. If Hashem dictates that the objects, כלים, are to be constructed with definitive metaphysical criteria, then any divergence from it would render it as a man-made object which can’t receive any spiritual value.

The purpose of the משכן, Tabernacle, was as the Ramban teaches, as a “replacement” for what transpired at הר סיני, Mt. Sinai, when we received the Torah. At Har Sinai, Hashem appeared in the “form of a fire”; the completely spiritual, non-physical realm. This was a connection that Hashem was creating to enable us to be the recipients of the Torah, a definition of who He is in a way that we can and have to emulate.

The Medrash describes a metaphor for us to be able to perceive what this means. A king who has only one daughter is overjoyed due to her marrying a spouse. But at the same time, he will long for his daughter’s presence and companionship; the feeling of loneliness and exclusion will negatively affect him. He therefore asks his daughter’s husband to create in every house or palace that he builds for his family to add an extra room to enable him to always have the opportunity to visit and spend time with his daughter, thereby mitigating any feelings of disassociation.

In a similar manner Hashem says to us; I have given you the Torah, but I can’t separate myself from it, it’s the dynamic of all that I am; it’s my plan for My world, it’s sole reason I created the world and in turn you, Klal Yisroel are the “spouse” of my Torah.

The שכינה, “Divine Presence” is intertwined with the Torah, just as at הר סיני the שכינה was intertwined with the Torah, it is now an integral part of Hashem’s world. We, Klal Yisroel, who received this eternal gift in order to be able to approach the Torah, to be gifted with true, profound discernment, comprehension, and acuity requires that Hashem at all times “is there” teaching us His Torah. After the חטא העגל, the sin of the Golden Calf, where we distanced ourselves from Him; for from then on, He with רחמים, mercy, enabled us to once again have this connection by constructing a “home” for Him where He would reside; henceforth the משכן, Tabernacle. Every day we beseech, יהי רצון… שיבנה בית המקדש במהרה בימינו ותן חלקנו בתורתך, May it be Your will… that the Holy Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days, and grant us our share in your Torah…

They, the necessary place of the residence of the שכינה, Divine Presence, and the understanding of Torah are inseparable, this being the only conduit to being gifted Torah knowledge in its full splendor.

In the times of the first Temple, prophecy was the result of the Divine Presence, in the Second Temple, there was a revelation of תורה שבעל פה in a greater way than before. Today every place of worship or study can be the source of being blessed with this indescribable gift – to be the receptacle of Hashem’s gift; it being the only way to truly connect to His Torah.

This could be the explanation of the Midrash, that at the time of the destruction of the Second בית המקדש, its rocks flew off to every place in the world that a בית הכנסת or בית המדרש would be constructed; a continuance of the dynamic that started at Har Sinai!

There are many lessons we derive from this. Firstly, that all that we accomplish is only with סעייתא דשמיא, with Hashem’s benevolence. If we truly transcend our emotional drives for attention, fame, acclaim, and daven and learn with selfless subjugation to Hashem, He will enrich us!

If our places of קדושה, holiness are infused with Hashem’s presence, it is logically mandatory to treat them with the greatest respect possible. The Torah teaches the mitzvah of תרומת הדשן, the removal of ashes from the sacrifices we brought on the מזבח, altar. Though holy and spiritual, they must be removed to maintain the reverence of Hashem and His places of holiness. In the same manner, we must treat our holy places with the greatest respect possible; otherwise as the Ramchal explains, our study of Torah is but an intellectual exercise, lacking the infusion of Hashem’s benefaction.

עבודה, תפילה, and תלמוד תורה are essential to us, they only have their intended purpose if done in the proper manner and context.


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