5756 - #11

Building a Place for G-d

"In the highest and in the truest sense the Holy Temple of Gd is, as we must believe, the whole universe, having for its sanctuary part of all existence, even Heaven (Philo)." The Torah Shelaimah tells us that with the pattern for the Tabernacle, Gd was saying: "Take Me with you along with my Torah." How are we to understand this?

"You will put into the Ark, the Testimony that I will give you (Shemot 25:17)." "And into the Ark, you will put the Testimony which I will give you. (Shemot 25:21)" We learn Terumah and Tetzaveh with breath mostly held, with the determined ambition and scrutiny of maze-walkers; I contemplated the language of these verses.[1] The first verse suggests completion: that the Ark is not completed until it is filled with the eidut, the Testimony. But the second verse has the completed Ark: "Into the Ark", so where is the Testimony placed?

Gd's Laws, as recorded in the text, are generally specific in urgency and vague in detail. However, the instructions concerning the Tabernacle lack any sense of overt threat in terms of failure to comply and the details are often so extensive that they require almost scientific scrutiny. Why, for example, did Moshe have difficulty with the procedure concerning the construction of the Menorah (Rashi, Shemot 25:40)? Was it the design, the technique, the metaphoric substance, the further meaning? Moshe -- able to chart his way into Gd's own shadow -- was perplexed by this Menorah?

"You son of man tell the house of Israel about the House that they may be ashamed of their iniquities and let them measure the plan. And if they become ashamed of all they have done ... they may cherish its whole structure and rules and implement them. (Yechezkel 43:l0-ll)." There is a deliberate, and not subtle, interweaving of man's responses to his very soul and to this self-standing edifice. "And you shall make for me a Mikdash (Shemot 25:8)." Rashi explains that it is not for Gd but for His Name that a house of Holiness should be erected. For His Name? For His Name to fill the world by man's hand to Gd's design.

"...that I may dwell among them. (Shemot 25:7)." Zedah La-derech emphasizes the plural pronoun "them" instead of the singular "it" (which would refer to the Sanctuary). So what is the need of the Sanctuary? And how is Gd to be among us? He cannot force Himself into our consciousness without changing the entire structure of Man. It is within our will how we see, what we call what we see. But -- outside of our consciousness yet by the work of our own hands -- He can place Himself. Like Jacob's cedar trees -- see Rashi, Shemot 25:5 -- which travelled through space, through time, to reach a destiny that transformed reality -- it is in our hands through Gd's Breath to fill the world with His Name so He will dwell among us. It is to render this fragile state of being into some Eternity. Ultimately, through all levels of encounter, it is Torah that wills the creation and it is Torah that is created.

"You will put the staves into the rings. (Shemot 25:14)." "In the rings of the Ark will be the staves. (Shemot 25:15)." The first verse is a directive. The second verse is what follows from the act. Not -- 'The staves will be in the rings of the Ark' but 'In the rings of the Ark will be the staves'. Order -- that here are the rings, the staves are inserted, and reality changes. Measure the transformation through the words. Rabbi Hirsch says it is this locking of the staves within the rings that indicates the very mobility of the Torah. We will move from wilderness to wilderness. The Ark will remain an immutable force. The staves are in place forever (Rashi, Shemot 25:15.) Was the act static and the effect stationary? No. It is the Torah from which we receive direction and it is, by following this direction, that we give life to the Torah. This is an unending flux. You will hear the voice of Gd, follow where it leads; the effect will be to create Gd's voice. Only Gd is eternal. Gd must be among us if we are to experience Eternity. Gd cannot enter the world. He must be brought into it by Man.The kruvim which shelter the cover, which are carved from out of the kapporet, have infant faces, their wings soar upward in pre-flight (Ralbag). Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim 3:45 tells us they represent the prophetic liaison to Gd; within the verses we learn that it is between the angels that Gd's voice will rest: How many levels are there to explore? The contemplation of the kruvim as conceptual constructs is so multi-levelled, beguiling -- why must we physically shape them? Because Gd is to dwell among us, within us -- not that we are to dwell, pre-natal, within Him. We cannot surround ourselves with thoughts but what a feast to create an environment in the physical world that is l'olam, far-reaching, that is Eternity.

Not only physically was a place to be created wherein the eidut may rest but the Aron, as it is built and as it stands, was to extend the eidut, become further testimony. You study a sefer -- do you close the words away when you finish? How you close the sefer, how the sefer burns in your hands, where you set it to rest -- these actions extend the Book. The physical world grows full in the this way with holiness, with tangible holiness. In the process and in the creation is the eidut.

Rambam says that every ordered detail concerning the Ark is "intended to bring about additional glorification and to instill a greater fear into the heart." What is this fear? How can you be afraid of what you have made? It is a true partnership of Man and Gd which, if enacted with open eyes and a hungry mind, will write Torah from the Torah, will bring Gd into our wait. What is the fear? It is, mostly, the fear of our attraction to high places. Gd has told us: "I will restore health to you, and I will heal you of your wounds." (Yirmiyahu 30-l7) Not -- 'I will heal your wounds'. Man's involvement is requisite, necessary for success. To fear your attraction to high places is to frame the truth. But to resist the attraction is to slay the truth. And to yield to the attraction? It is not to find a place for Gd in the world but to build a place for Gd in the world.

Naomi Hecht e-mail


[1] As Verse 21 adds that the cover, the kapporet, will be placed over the Ark, Rashi understands this to be the reason for the repetition of the directive. While the Commentaries disagree about the order -- whether the eidut or the cover was to be placed first, they agree that this explains the redundancy. The placement of the cover is listed first in the verse but there is no word of order, such as "then" or "now", before the mention of the Testimony.

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