Illuminating the Material World by Chanan Schnaidman


We, as humans, are constrained by boundaries. Therefore it is hard for us to understand Hashem’s ability to transcend all boundaries. The idea of Hashem transcending boundaries is very evident in the discussion of the Mishkan in this week’s Parashah. The Mishkan contained physical properties that could have been measured in length and weight. However, one of the ten miraculous conditions that applied there was that “the Aron took up no space.”

This idea is transferred to the sanctuary of man’s heart. The Torah states, “VeAsu Li Mikdash VeShachanti BeTocham,” “They shall make me a Mikdash and I shall dwell among them” (Shemot 25:8), The use of the plural “them” implies that Hashem’s presence is not in only the Mishkan but is also in man’s heart. Not only does man’s body need to be a container for holiness, he must also strive to make his material pursuits holy, just like the material substances of the Mishkan had a special holiness to them.

Other Chassidic sources interpret this Pasuk to mean that man’s physical pursuits are meant to make the world holy. Hashem created an incomplete world so that only through people can the world be perfected. Sefer Tehillim states, “Koach Maasav Higgid LeAmo,” “He has empowered His nation to carry on His works” (Tehillim 111:6). These thoughts reflect the idea of “They shall make me a Mikdash” and “VeChein Taasu,” “So shall you do” (Shemot 25:9). The Mishkan was made to serve as a medium for holiness so that man’s ordinary activities could illuminate the physical world with spirituality.

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