Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Make Me a Sanctuary for Me to dwell therein."

In his commentary on this week's parsha, The Sefat Emet, Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter writes,

"Material things have no will. And everything must have a will-that is essential. This proves that these things depend upon humanity who has a will. And with this will humanity can incline every thing towards G-d...this is the meaning of the verse "let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them..." --among each individual." (Trumah 5633)

In The Guide For The Perplexed, Maimonides states that the mishkan serves as a spiritual conduit to G-d, not as a physical dwelling. The physical structure was used to elicit a spritual reaction.

Nehama Leibowitz asks whether the passage "make Me a Sanctuary for Me to dwell therein" "contains the message of Divine love, a promise of intimate contact with Him?" (Studies in Shemot, p.468.)

I believe that the message of this week's parsha is that there has to be a direct link between the will of G-d and the will of humankind.

Why does the construction of the mishkan come up at this point in the Torah? Most commentators have an opinion. The one that I find to be most fitting and understanding is the one posited by Abravanel,

"G-d's intention with the construction of the mishkan was to contest the idea that G-d had forsaken the earth."

As the people journeyed farther and farther into the desert, they needed the reassurance that G-d was present in their lives.

How does this relate to us as parents and to our children who are questioning their connection to their religion, to their parents and to their past?

Now more than ever, we need the assurance and our children need the reassurance that G-d is still present in our lives. We must prove to our children that Hashem has not forsaken them, nor have we forsaken them.

We are unable to build a physical structure. Thus no one can fulfill all the commandments laid out in the Torah. Therefore we must find other ways to build a mishkan. Together, we must build a spiritual dwelling place where we can embrace our children and our families and teach them how to be better Jews and better human beings. We must be encouraged, and we must encourage our children to follow as many mitzvot as is possible, with the limited capabilities that we as humans have.

Our children were raised as frum children. Because of who they discovered themselves to be as they were growing up and reaching maturity, they have felt rejected by the Torah community or by us, their parents. I believe that it is their will to remain as frum Jews, if only they could be encouraged to do so in a non-judgemental environment. I believe that a loving G-d who commands us to build a dwelling place wants everyone to share in this endeavor.

Each effort we make to bring ourselves and our children closer to Hashem, brings the mishkan closer to home.



Anonymous said...

What struck me most was your comment about "We are unable to build a physical structure. Thus no one can fulfill all the commandments laid out in the Torah. Therefore we must find other ways to build a mishkan." This is so true as many LGBT (adult) children do not know or understand how to redefine their path of life. While ones relationship with Hashem is obviously a personal one, modern day frum culture obides by the definition of its community. Its difficult for a gay son in a frum community to remain within that community - i think the strongest reason for leaving is not wanting to be looked at like a 'nebuch'.

Saul David said...

Dear Anonymous,
You are correct in what you say. One's relationship with Hashem is personal. But bear in mind that all cultures abide by the definition of it's own community.
Our Rabbis, in their infinite wisdom deemed that certain prayers and religious rituals could only be performed with a minyan. Sociologists agree that the main purpose of this was to form a community. In the great Jewish immigration waves to America in the 1850s, the 1880s and the 1920s, Jewish immigrants chose to dwell amongst themselves because it was more comfortable to live with like-minded people. The first matter at hand, when establishing a Jewish community is to set up a shul, mikva, butcher and cemetery. After that the community grows around these institutions.
All immigrant groups tend to live together until they become more comfortable in their new home. This holds true for the Germans, the Irish, the Italians in the early part of the 20th century and for the Koreans, Dominicans and Vietnamese in the later part of the century.
Communities such as the Upper West Side, Washington Heights and Katamon exist because like-minded people want to live together. It is just more comfortable to do so, plain and simple.
So what is so wrong for you to leave the community where you grew up and find comfort in a more welcoming and like-minded community. Once you are comfortable with yourself, you will be able to return home, if you so desire. And if you can't return to live in that community you can always visit with your head held high, knowing that you have another place to return to, which you now call home.
In the meantime, keep that close personal connection to Hashem and find more meaningful ways to build that mishkan.
Saul David

Anonymous said...

My family has a long history of disappointing one's family. My grandfather was born and raised a Chassid in Poland. When the Shoah came he - like many religious Jews - lost faith in Hashem. He never lost faith in the Jewish community however. Then when my mother got older she married outside of her faith. She converted to Christianity and became a Jew for Jesus (when I was 6). Now that I'm older I've decided that from my reading of scripture Jesus is simply not the messiah. I cannot believe that he is. So, I've decided to remain a Jew - a conservative Jew. What I know though is that all of us are good people and all of us love each other. I don't think you can blame yourself. As we grow older our experiences combine with our traditions to make us into individuals. As a gay man I can understand your son's disconnect with religion but I think Hashem will always dwell in him at least in part - as he dwells in me. Sometimes the conservatism of religion makes us feel so badly about ourselves that we reject it because we don't want to be reminded of that hurt. However, after time we begin to heal and rethink things. In time I suspect your son will return sooner than you think. If he doesn't, then I assure you Hashem will live with him anyway. Just as He's always lived with all Jews - whether they have a tabernacle, a temple, a community, or simply themselves.