“Make For Me a Mishkan and I Will Dwell Amongst Them”

If you stop a Jew in the street and ask, “Where is God?” the most instinctive response will be, “Everywhere.” Or perhaps, after a bit more thought, the person might quote the well-known response of the Kotzker Rebbe, “God is found everywhere you allow Him to enter.” However, if we were to look to Tanach, the answer we would find is, “Yerusholayim, the Temple, the Beit HaMikdash.”

Where is God?

It’s true, God is aiyn sof, infinite and transcendent, and we simply have no way to grasp what, or where, He is. Any comprehension we have of Hashem is only through the finite, limited ways in which He reveals Himself to us.

In many ways, the purpose of the Torah is to guide us in a careful, step-by-step fashion, to perceive the ways in which God makes Himself known. It’s interesting; the Torah doesn’t tell us that since God is aiyn sof that therefore He is to be found in every action and activity. Rather, there are actions in which God is found, like within mitzvot, and actions where He isn’t, like avairot, transgressions. The same is true within the dimensions of time and space: There are specific times and days in which God is more revealed than others, times when His closeness to us is more accessible. There are also places where His presence is more manifest and where we can more readily encounter Him. 

Just like it is crystal clear in the realm of mitzvot and aveirot that it’s mitzvot that draw us close to God, we need to be equally clear that if we desire the deepest relationship with Hashed—the most sublime dveikut—then we need to ascend to Jerusalem. Yerusholayim. As King David said, “For God has chosen Tzion, He desired to dwell there, for this is always My dwelling place, here is where My home will rest, because I desired her.” (Tehillim 132:13) Is there a more vibrant description of Hashem’s relationship to Yerusholayimthan this? Is this not what Hashem said to Moshe, “And I will make Myself known to you there.”There, particularly, uniquely. There, particularly and uniquely there is where one encounters God in the deepest, most intimate fashion. It’s where every neshama encounters God. Jerusalem: Aliya L’regel

Regarding the festival pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the Torah succinctly characterizes the purpose as, “To see the face of God.” Without this remarkable description, we never could have imagined that such a thing could even be possible. Indeed, from here we learn that the Mikdash is something like (bechinat) the physical embodiment of the Shechina. Similar to when we see the particular physical features of a friend, we are able to connect with the deeper essence of the person, the same is true with the Mikdash. Pnei, the “face,” the inner essence of Shechina, can be grasped in the Mikdash.

A glance, a smile, a hug, a whisper. Each is a simple physical gesture, yet each creates a connection. Each enables two separate beings to bond and meld, to feel a profound closeness. And so, when one looses someone close, though we know the neshama still exists, nonetheless it’s the absence of that touch, smile and hug that we so ache for. Physical gestures, but not just: They are portals to so much more, to an inner reality and deeper connection.

We are physical beings, and just like we need the body of those we love to connect to, the same is true with God: We need the Beit Hamikdash to cleave to God. When we ascend to the Mikdash, our physical eye beholds it’s beauty and grandeur, and our soul senses—and is infused and nourished by—something far deeper. We bask in the presence of our love. We are overcome by a boundless joy and an endless pleasure. And, in the midst of this relationship, as we “see” the face of Hashem, so does He “see” us.

Seeing. Face to face. That is where depth of connection is found. As our sages said, “Just as we came [to Yerusholayim] to see, so too Hashem came to be seen.” Regarding this, Rav Natan Shapira provides us with a remarkable concept: When a person goes up to Yerusholayimfor the festivals and perceives the Shechina, that spiritual perception makes a deep, enlightening impression on his mind. Life and reality now look different. There’s a new depth and beauty. Beyond that, from God’s perspective, so to speak, when He “sees” us, the image of each of us is engraved upon the Shechina, in the highest imaginable dimension of existence. Absence...

Without the Mikdash, the Shechina is dislodged, it’s as if it floats and wonders about, unable to find a place to rest. And we, we are bereft, and our longing eyes search the heavens and cry out. “Where is the place of His glory!?” The consequences of this state of being are far reaching, andtouch every aspect of our lives. Every doubt, every question of emuna, every confounding confusion in life, every feeling of being estranged—from others, life, and ourselves—all of this is a result of the absence of a way, a tangible Mikdash, that affords us the deepest perception and awareness of, and connection to God, to reality in it’s biggest sense. When our experience of tefilla, of kedusha, of dveikut seems to be wanting and fleeting, that’s all a result of no Mikdash. Without some tangible means to bridge the gap, it’s as if depth and spirituality and kedusha and dveikut are forever slipping through our fingers.

Torah is the highest, most pristine spirituality. Tefila is the deepest, deepest opening of our hearts. Yet, to truly access those heights and depths, we need a “body,” to relate to. We need a great and holy House of “Gold, silver and copper and techelet and purple …” Our Future

There are those that think that the Mikdash is irrelevant, or that it’s a luxury, something that if you have it, it’s nice, but if not, not. That the essence of life remains with or without the Mikdash, God forbid. This notion, however, is an outgrowth of a misunderstanding of the vital meaning of the Mikdash. Indeed, when we begin to grasp just how central the Mikdash is to full, deep spirituality, then we begin to understand how desperately our generation needs the Mikdash. We begin to sense how it’s the Mikdash that is precisely what we need to remedy so much of what deeply ails our souls.

It’s the light of the Mikdash, of life with the Mikdash, that can restore the light we so desperately need. The singular joy of Am Yisrael ascending to Yerusholayim for the regalim—the festivals—will infuse us with love, with an awareness of the deep connection we all have to one another. We will “see,” perceive and feel—truly, intensely, in our bones—feel the sanctity that infuses us all. Our lives will naturally feel so rich, so full, so alive!

Everything else will pail in comparison.


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Translated by Shimon Apisdorf