Hashem’s Gan Eden by Rabbi Jake Berman

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lazzato (Ramchal), a prominent 18th century Rabbi who lived in Italy and Amsterdam, explains in his work Derech Hashem (Part 4, 8:6) that one of the great enactments of the Nevi’im was the obligation of Kriat HaTorah. His reason being that when one reads the relevant Torah portions, he then begins to connect to the infinite spiritual light that emanates from the specific Parashah. The famous 16th century kabbalist from Prague Rabbi Yeshayahu Ben Avraham Horowitz, known as the Shelah HaKodesh, states that this concept is known as “HaKriyah Me’Oret Et HaZeman”,  “the reading [from the Torah] alludes to what is going on during the time.” He believes that for example, when we read Parashat BeReishit, we are able to connect to the spiritual light of the creation of the world. Once we connect to that light, we can recreate or renew ourselves in the proper Derech Hashem. Similarly, Rav Tzadok, an esteemed 19th century Rabbi from Lublin, points out that an earlier Torah giant from Lublin, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz, known as the Chozeh of Lublin, describes the Shabbat on which Parashat Bo is read as an allusive first days of Pesach, while the Shabbat on which Parashat BeShalach is read is comparable to the last days of Pesach. Fittingly, the Shabbat on which Parashat Yitro is read is parabolic to Shavuot.
            Many refer to these past seven weeks as ‘SHOVaVIM’ which is an acronym for the first six Parshiot of Sefer Shemot: Shemot, Va’era, Bo, BeShalach, Yitro, and Mishpatim. The essence of these weeks is about the Jewish people’s transition from being Avadim to Paroh to being Avadim to Hashem. Therefore, it is fitting during this time for people to attempt to break free of their slavery to Gashmiut, and begin to serve Hashem in the proper Derech.

During a leap year however, Terumah and Tetzaveh are included effectively changing the title to ‘SHOVaVim TaT.’ Many questions arise because of this inclusion of Parashat Terumah and Tetzaveh. For example, why does the building of the Mishkan relate to this transition process? Was receiving the Torah not the end goal? Perhaps the answer can be rooted in the Pasuk in Parashat Terumah (2:8) “Ve’Asu Li Mikdash, VeShochanti BiTocham”, “Let them make Me a sanctuary so that I can dwell in them.” The building of the Mishkan and fabricating the Bigadim for the Kohanim theoretically creates space for HaKadosh Baruch Hu to dwell amongst Bnei Yisrael in this world. This quasi-physical relationship is the apogee of ‘SHOVaVIM.’ The ultimate goal of Torah study and the observance of Mitzvot is to acquire the tangible relationship with the Ribono Shel Olam.
Moshe Alshich, also known as Alshich HaKadosh, who was one of Rabbi Yosef Caro’s top Talmidim, points out that the Pasuk should say “VeAsu Li Mikdash, VeShochanti Bo”, “Let them make Me a sanctuary so that I can in it” instead of “so that I can dwell in them.” The Alshich HaKadosh explains that the Pasuk is not just referring to the Mikdash; rather it is also referring to the hearts of each and every Jew. It is every person’s duty to provide a space for Hashem to dwell with them. The sole reason why Hashem took Klal Yisrael out of Mitzrayim and gave them the Torah was for Klal Yisroel to be transformed into a nation which brings Godliness into their daily lives.
Correspondingly, the sole goal of ‘SHOVaVIM’ is to be conscious of the way we speak, the way we think, and the way we act by being and to sanctify it. Hashem is desires to be with us wherever we are and it is our obligation to provide a proper environment for Hashem to dwell. For this reason we are commanded to make a “Mikdash” which is sanctified, instead of a Mishkan. When we are MeKadesh our whole livelihood we create a proper home for Hashem.
The famous 19th century Chasidish Rebbe, Rebbe Yisrael Taub, notes in his Sefer, Divrei Yisrael, that Gan Eden for Klal Yisroel is in Olam HaElyon, but Gan Eden for Hashem is in Olam HaZeh in the heart of a sanctified Jew. It should be Hashem’s will that we take the message of ‘SHOVaVIM’ to heart and transform our hearts and livelihood into a proper environment for Hashem to dwell.

Voluntary and Obligatory Service by Levi Langer (‘21)

KeIsh Echad BeMikdash Echad By Natan Lehman