Everyone longs for the sacred joy that can tear away the cobwebs of tiredness and defeat from one’s soul … We had it in the Beis Hamikdash, but where is it today?
Everything in creation sings the praise of Hashem, Blessed be He. The heaven and the earth, countless stars and planets. Untold millions of living creatures, plants and inanimate objects. “For my honor I have created it, formed it, and also did it,” says the prophet Yishaya (chapter 42). Everything is recreated every single day for the glory of Hashem.
When Hashem’s glory rests upon a person, that person feels an influx of indescribable pleasure and joy. This is what the world was created for. When the supernal pleasure flows in, it sets the heart aflame with longing to serve Hashem. This is the residence of the holy Shechina inside the soul. One can taste this pleasure during special times of grace. And when the gates are thus open, this joy can be tasted in sweetness of the words of Torah, and in the fiery utterance of prayer. When a person is so fortunate as to taste but a morsel of Hashem’s honor residing within him, he knows without any doubt why he was created. This is what gives people the power to toil tirelessly in the service of Hashem. When you feel the King, you have no trouble withstanding the temptations of the evil inclination. Before the King there is no sadness, nor does one need seek succor and relief in the pleasures of this world.
Fortunate are those who have the strength to “stand in the palace of the King”. Their good deeds purify their souls, enabling them to see the revelation of Hashem as a matter of course. In their hearts they feel how the honor of Hashem permeates the world. But then there are others whose hearts are blocked from any feeling of Hashem’s presence. Their entire being is wrapped around calculations, thoughts of if’s and but’s, worries, and plans to no end. In their hearts you cannot find joy or freedom of any kind, only a black hole of forgetfulness and emptiness. When such a person approaches Torah or prayer, every word seems to weigh a ton. The trials and tribulation of time and place seem impassable. This is because when the deeds are corrupt, divinity cannot rest there – and when the presence of Hashem is missing, everything is difficult to the point of being practically impossible.
One Small Chamber
In our parsha Hashem is asking Am Yisroel to prepare a place for the Shechina to dwell amongst them. “Let them take for me a donation and I shall dwell among them.”
The medrash explains it with a parable:
Once there was a king who had a single daughter. One day a prince came and he married her. When the prince wished to return to his country with his new wife, the king said to him: “The daughter you married is my only daughter. I cannot separate from her at all – nor can I tell you not to take her away, since she is your wife. So I ask you this favor. Wherever you go, make me a small chamber so that I can reside with you, since separating from my daughter isn’t an option for me.”
This incredible parable reveals Hashem’s amazing love for us to the point he cannot separate from us even for a single second.
The medrash also reveals to us something else: it tells us that to get the Shechina to dwell in us all we need to do is to build for it a ‘little chamber’. Before the sin of the golden calf, the people of Israel lived inside the palace of the King. Their entire reality was bathing in the supernal delight of Hashem’s glory. The sin took it all away. Now it is no longer possible to feel Hashem’s presence in every place. But just when things are the lowest, Hashem is giving a new way to connect with Him; “Make me a Temple”. The Mishkan is that ‘small chamber’ we talked about. It is a small room, full of sacred tools that make the dwelling of the Shechina in our midst possible.
With the Beis Hamikdash, like the Tabernacle in the desert, we could experience the revelation of Hashem’s glory. When we performed the sacred pilgrimage of Aliya Laregel three times a year, we merited to have our souls purified. We were able to receive an illumination which made it possible for us to actually intellectually understand the glory of Hashem and be fully cognizant of the presence of the Shechina in our midst. It is the loss of this lucidity that we lament when we recite the Tikkun Chatzos. The Beis Hamikdash is the first thing we miss. Our very existence has become dark, as if someone dimmed down the sun.
So where can we find such a chamber that can contain the glory of Hashem today?
The advice for doing just that is also here, in Parshas Terumah. The Torah invites every single Jew to be a part of building the Mishkan and the dwelling place of the holy Shechina. We can make the Shechina reside within us with doing a Mitzvah and every single holy spark of goodness. This is the chamber where the Shechina and Hashem’s glory dwell.
Rebbe Nachman warned us to be joyful at all times and adhere to Hashem through every single point of goodness within us (teaching # 282). The Torah reveals this secret with the account of building the Mishkan. The people of Israel were told to bring a gift from whatever they happen to have. Some brought gold, others brought silver and some, who had no gold or silver, brought painted wool yarn. These gifts allude to the Mitzvos we perform – big and small – at times without even realizing we are doing them … this is the chamber Hashem asked us to build for Him.
Each and every one of our days is filled with thousands of points of light. Good thoughts … intentions to do teshuvah … overcoming temptations … each one of these can be an incredible donation to the building of the Mishkan. The donations should be brought with the intent to reveal the Shechina and make a chamber for the divine providence to dwell among us. When your mind aims towards that goal with every good deed you perform, it builds your own Mishkan and Hashem resides within you.
Skip over the sins and build
The minute our lives revolve around building a dwelling place for Hashem, we are forbidden to look backwards and judge ourselves, “What have I done? How could I be so stupid? How will I ever correct this or that? Whatever will become of me?” The Torah tells us this secret by switching the order of events: The sin of golden calf actually took place before the building of the Mishkan – yet the Torah disregards the proper order and ‘skips’ to the construction of the Tabernacle first just to tell you that Hashem’s love for us is without parallel.
The Torah is telling you: Don’t deal with sins now. Stay away from any thought that may cause you to become discouraged. We’ll get to rectifying the sin of the golden calf when the time comes. But right now, run along. Keep moving. Prepare a Mishkan for Hashem in your heart. Bring a donation out of anything you can. Any good point in your life can be a tool for inserting the Shechina into your life.
The donation creates a tool that enables the dwelling of Hashem amongst us. Every single crumb of goodness we donate to the honor of Hashem builds this chamber. The last letters of “לחזות בנעם ‘ה ולבקר בהיכלו” spell “ת’ר’ו’מ’ה” to tell us that if we want to gaze upon the glory of Hashem we must bring this individual donation of personal goodness we can find within us. All we have to do is mean it.