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Shabbat Parashat Terumah 5775

Parashat Hashavua: Keeping the Shechina

Harav Yosef Carmel

Many quills have been broken in an attempt to fully explain the order of events in the parshiyot of Yitro, Mishpatim, and Teruma, which discuss different parts of the story of the giving of the Torah and the commandment to build the Mishkan. A major part of the question hinges on the place of the sin of the Golden Calf: did it precede or succeed the commandment to build the Mishkan?

This time we will examine the connection between Yitro and Teruma, even though they are separated by Mishpatim. The giving of the Torah starts in Yitro and continues through Mishpatim. The construction of the Mishkan starts with Teruma and continues through the end of Sefer Shemot well into Sefer Vayikra. One of the main identifying elements of the giving of the Torah was the prevalence of the Glory of Hashem, which was accompanied by special clouds and fire at Mt. Sinai. Specifically, at the end of Mishpatim, the Torah tells how Moshe went up the mountain and entered the cloud, where he stayed for 40 days and nights (Shemot 24:12-18). The question that a spiritual person asks is how could Bnei Yisrael continue the positive elements they gained by these expressions of the Divine Presence well beyond the one-time event of Matan Torah?

A powerful answer is contained in the opening of Parashat Teruma. Bnei Yisrael would donate for a Mishkan, which would be a place where the Divine Presence would dwell on an ongoing basis (Shemot 25:8). Key among the elements of the Mishkan was the aron (ark containing the luchot, upon which the Ten Commandments were written). The aron was covered by a kaporet, out of which rose up the keruvim, and the voice of Hashem spoke to Moshe from that point (ibid. 22). The idea that without an aron there is no Mishkan (see Yerushalmi, Megilla 1:12) gives this connection extra meaning. The Mishkan enables the continuation of the dwelling of the Divine Presence in the midst of Bnei Yisrael.

In this state, the connection to Hashem is not only through the bringing of sacrifices but with the ongoing involvement in Torah study, which had started with the powerful Divine Revelation at Sinai. The luchot are in the midst of the aron in the midst of the Mishkan. Their presence enables Moshe to continue to receive Torah lessons from Hashem, which he can share with the whole nation. This center of service and of Torah, which started in the Mishkan, continued for hundreds more years in the Beit Hamikdash, continuing the Sinaitic experience. Through the study of Torah, then, the Jew is able to continue his direct connection to Hashem. In and around the Mishkan there is also a prevalence of the cloud that hosts the Shechina, as we see when the Mishkan was complete in the midst of its inauguration (see Shemot 40:34-38).

Let us pray to continue to receive the Torah, preserving the experience Bnei Yisrael had at Sinai, and live a life in which “I [Hashem] will dwell among you.”
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