The Blueprint For Serving Hashem by Uri Goffin


      The Rambam, in his Moreh Nevuchim  (חלק ג' פרק ל"ב) implies that nowadays, there is no apparent need to study the Parshiyos, including ours, in which many of the particulars relating to the Mishkan and the clothes of the Kohanim are explained.  If so, what reason is there for Hashem to have included these Parshiyos as part of the Torah?  What do they come to teach us?  One of many possibilities is that they can show us the way in which we may serve Hashem properly.  This may be especially so now that the Mishkan and the Beis Hamikdash are no longer with us. 

            Harav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, in his essay Halachic Man, expounds on the concept of צמצום which explains that Hashem brings Himself down to this world and functions in it.  It is not for mankind to try and go up to Hashem.  This can be seen in the beginning of our Parsha where the Torah mentions all the physically beautiful materials that were donated by Bnai Yisrael for the purpose of building the Mishkan, such as gold, silver, bronze, linen, etc. (שמות כ"ה:ג-ז).  In the very next Posuk, the Torah says ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם, make me a sanctuary and I will dwell in it.  This can mean that Hashem will perform צמצום, that is, He will come down to the earth and dwell among all the beautiful materials of the Mishkan.  We may infer from this that the glory of Hashem can and should be found within the beauty of the outside world.  This beauty can be seen in a gorgeous sunset, or through studying the sciences, math, literature, philosophy, and other appropriate thoughts that impact the human mind. 

            The first object mentioned in the commandment to build the Mishkan is the Aron, the holy Ark, which is the place where Hashem's presence would actually rest, and this represented a way to go up to Hashem.  But one of the major features of the Ark was that it was to be hidden at all times.  (The one exception is Yom Kippur, when the Kohein Gadol went inside the Kodesh Hakodashim, the Holy of Holies, in order to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice and thereby gain forgiveness for the nation.)  The ark was placed inside the walls of the Kodesh Hakodashim which were made of a beautiful tapestry.  Hashem is thus telling us that it is a natural desire to go up to Hashem and strive to reach His level. Even though we live in the realm of the physical and the human, it is impossible to live with only totally physical experiences.  However, we can not try to overstep the bounds of our humanity and enter into the G-dly arena.  Such a mistake was made by Chavah, the first woman.  She was convinced to eat from the Eitz HaDaas, the tree of knowledge, because the snake told her that by eating the fruit she will be equal to G-d (בראשית ג:ה).  She liked this idea and thus ate from the tree.  She tried to overstep her human limitations and become G-d like, but Hashem punished her, and ultimately her greatness was lessened.  The ark, therefore, comes to symbolize the limitations against our ability to understand and accomplish.

            How can we serve Hashem with our limitations?  This may be seen from the rest of the vessels mentioned in our Parsha.  The vessel mentioned after the ark is the Shulchan, which holds the לחם הפנים, the showbread.  This too gives us a clue as to how to serve Hashem.  According to the Midrash, Adam and Chavah were shown how to make bread by Hashem.  He thus showed them how to conquer and develop the outside world for their benefit.  The Torah positioned the Shulchan after the ark to show us a way to get close to Hashem despite our limitations.  By exploring, finding, and developing the beauty of the world, man can gain an even closer relationship with Hashem. 

            If this exploration is done appropriately, then the glory of Hashem will spread and it will be illuminated throughout the world, as symbolized by the next vessel mentioned in our Parsha, the Menorah.  The Torah further clarifies this point by explaining the dimensions of the walls in the Mishkan.  By examining the pieces, one can see just how temporary the structure was.  It could travel to any place at any time.  Similarly, the glory of Hashem will follow us wherever we go, if we seek Him out in the proper way.

            Exploration and comprehension alone, however, is not enough.  After all, we do not necessarily wish to fulfill everything Hashem wishes us to.  But we must overcome our own feelings and sacrifice in order to do what Hashem wants.  This is symbolized by the next vessel described in the Parsha, the altar.  When we give of ourselves and our property, we attain a certain closeness to Hashem which can be accomplished by any type of sacrifice, even not on an altar.  After the altar, the Torah mentions the חצר, the courtyard, where any Jew who was pure could enter.  This teaches that we can all find a way to be close to Hashem as long as the means are pure and appropriate.

            Rav Chaim Brisker has been quoted as saying that the purpose of the creation of the world is the fulfillment of the will of Hashem.  The will of Hashem is that our lives will be guided by Torah, and that mankind in general be guided by the glory of Hashem.  Our understanding of the Torah should be supplemented by a deep understanding of the world around us.  At the same time, the outside world should be guided by the Torah.  The vessels in the Mishkan teach us how to use that which is in the world to serve Hashem and how to serve Hashem by controlling that which is in the world.

      The Torah includes the details of the construction of the Mishkan in order to show us how to reach an extra closeness to Hashem even when we do not have the benefit of a Mishkan or Beis HaMikdash.  As we wait for the third Beis Hamikdash to be rebuilt, we must use this blueprint which shows us how to maximize our relationship with Hashem by utilizing that which Hashem incorporated into this world.

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