A House For Hashem by David Pietruszka 


    We read in the beginning of this week's Parsha "ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם," "make for Me a sanctuary so that I will dwell among them" (שמות כ"ה:ח').  Rashi (שם) explains that this means that Hashem wants us to build Him a house in order to house Him, as it were.  There is, though, an obvious question that one may ask, namely, what does Hashem mean when He requests "make for Me a house?"  Hashem doesn't live anywhere, He has no physical being; there is no address or any one place where He manifests himself, so what exactly is Hashem requesting here?  
    One approach to this problem is that Hashem is telling us that we should not merely make a place for Hashem to dwell, for He does not really need any "dwelling place."  Rather, the Mishkan has a different purpose; a purpose that is more for us, Bnai Yisrael, than for Hashem Himself.  The point of the Mishkan is not primarily to enable Hashem to dwell there among us, but to be a place for us to approach Hashem.  The Torah later writes in regards to Hashem's dwelling place, "שלוש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכורך את פני ה'," "three times a year all males must appear in the presence of Hashem" (דברים ט"ז:ט"ז).  This presence of Hashem is to be contained in the Mishkan.  The point of the Mishkan, therefore, is for us to have a place in which to feel Hashem's presence and be awed by it.  
    Similarly today, when we enter a Shul, there should be a very different atmosphere than that which is present when we enter a gym.  Certain things that one would wear, say, or do in a gym should not even be thought about or done in a Shul.  On Yom Kippur, for example, most people can feel the atmosphere in Shul as Kol Nidrei begins; it is a much different atmosphere than one usually experiences.  It is an atmosphere full of fear and reverence for Hashem.  Therefore, by having us give Him a place where Hashem can dwell, Hashem is actually supplying us with a place where the atmosphere will be conducive to sincere prayer and communication with Him. It is perhaps for this reason that the Posuk tells us "וכל חכם לב בכם יבאו ויעשו," " all wise-hearted people should come and do" (שמות ל"ב:י'), referring to the idea that anyone who is wise enough to see the great opportunity if front of him, namely, the chance to have a direct line to Hashem, should come forward and take advantage of it. 
    Hashem therefore commands us to make Him a place to dwell specifically "בתוכם," "amongst them," within Bnai Yisrael, not in a remote area where the Jewish people would be unable to have access to it. Due to its location ("amongst Bnai Yisrael"), the Mishkan actually had a dual purpose, to serve not only as a place conducive to prayer, where Hashem wants us to come and appear before Him, but a place where Hashem's Shechinah would spread from, and serve as an inspiration for the Jewish people, and eventually, the entire world.

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