The Shehinah is looking for a home…

In Exodus 25:8 G-d commands the Jewish people to build the Mishkan , "ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם", - “And let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell amongst them.

Commentaries throughout the generations have emphasized the fact that the command does not imply that G-d seeks to dwell in the Mishkan, but rather that G-d seeks a home in the midst of the Jewish People – “ I will dwell amongst them.” This is understood to mean that the resting place of the shechinah is in the souls of Jews, and is dependent upon their actions, their beliefs, their hearts, their homes and whether their lives include a space, big or small, for the Creator to dwell in.

Both the Tabernacle , “Mishkan” and later the Temple in Jerusalem are receptacles, which both house the divine presence and serve as a link between G-d and his people.

The physical structure of the Mishkan embodies a spiritual reality by which we may learn to live our lives. Each intricate detail describing the vessels utilized in the sanctuary hints at something which is expected of us Jews, so that our lives, homes and communities become a sanctuary for G-d to dwell in.

There were five major vessels in the Mishkan and in the Temple:

  1. The holy ark, the golden keruvim and the tablets from Sinai in the holy of holies

  2. The golden Menorah with a central stem and wick and six branches with their wicks

  3. The Table with 12 loaves for the 12 tribes

  4. The incense altar

  5. The altar for wine, oil, flour, and animal sacrifices

Each one of these vessels represents a different fundamental aspect of man’s relationship with G-d. If we could grasp the meaning of these principles, we would be able to build our lives, our homes and our communities as vessels worthy of housing the shechinah. In other words, we would be able to welcome the shehinah in our homes.

The following are two of the most important aspects of this life-long work:

The vessels that are closer to the Holy of Holies represent the conduits that transmit blessings from G-d into this world and which manifest in our private lives. The holy ark, the golden menorah and the table show us how to build our lives as vessels, as receptacles of blessings. The golden menorah represents the study of the Torah; the table represents physical blessings, the bread of life, that nourishes us and provides us with physical well- being and good health.

Vessels located further away from the Holy of Holies represent the work required from Jews in order to “return” heaven its unending favors. The incense altar and the sacrificial altar, where offerings of oil, wine, flour and animals are performed, are perceived as tokens of gratitude for the boundless gifts of life showered upon us by the Creator. They are also an act of recognition that our lives depend exclusively upon Him.

We are commanded to follow this two-way process in our lives, in our homes and in our communities. We must learn to build our lives according to the precepts of the Torah in order to receive the blessings of life that flow into this world directly from G-d.

On the other hand, we must learn to receive in order to give. We must sacrifice and elevate some of these gifts for the sake of God’s children, particularly the less privileged whom he loves and to share these gifts with our children who are our future and with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

There is another principle embodied in the architecture of the Mishkan and Temple which can teach us how to live our lives and build our homes so that they may become sanctuaries to house the divine presence:

The Mishkan is a medium through which G-d’s blessings may travel and reach us in this world. This is achieved via two avenues that spring from one single source. They both draw from the Holy of Holies, which is the source of G-d’s revelation in the world. One path is spiritual. It draws nourishment from the wisdom of Torah embodied in the golden Menorah. This blessing nourishes our souls. The second avenue is the path of physical abundance that leads from the holy ark to the Table with its twelve loaves. In other words, it is transformed into matter that nourishes our bodies.

The two vessels, the golden Menorah and the Table were placed opposite each other and stood equally distant from the Holy of Holies and the Holy ark. This balance represents the embodiment of divine reality in this world, which is both physical and spiritual. Likewise, the paths through which divine blessings are transmitted and transformed as either physical or spiritual goods form the image of a balanced world which is receptive to the blessings that God wishes to shower upon it.

In our lives, in our homes and communities we seek to create a balance between the spiritual and physical blessings by which G-d sustains us. Each are a manifestation of G-d’s chesed and of His will to create and recreate our lives. We are commanded to become vessels of receptivity to merit both the light of G-d and the physical gifts of creation.