Az Yashir: This is My G-d, and I Will Build Him a Sanctuary
זה א-לי ואנוהו
This is my G-d, and I will build Him a Sanctuary…
זה–Zeh (This) – Their emunah was so tangible that it was as if they could point and say “Zeh” – THIS is my G-d!
“א-לי–Keili (my G-d) – The Name of Hashem, א-ל–Keil, refers to Hashem’s limitless power. The yud at the end of the word (א-לי) reminds us that He is MY personal G-d. Each of us has a personal relationship with Hashem, Who is involved with every aspect of our lives.
ואנוהו–v’anveihu – Targum Onkelos translates this word to mean making a dwelling. HaRav Shimon Schwab (Rav Schwab on Prayer, ArtScroll), based on Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch (The Hirsch Chumash, Feldheim/Judaica Press) explains that it means: “I will become a dwelling for Him, which means, I wish to live my life so that it becomes an abode for His Sh’chinah in this world.”
In his sefer Nefesh HaChaim, HaRav Chaim Volozhin writes something astounding. He writes that the entire purpose of the Mishkan and all its vessels was only to allude to us that we should make ourselves sanctified and fit to “house” the Sh’chinah within ourselves.
HaRav Avigdor Miller directs us to also look at what the Gemara derives from the words, “Zeh Keili v’anveihu.” The Gemara (Shabbos 133b) uses these words as the source for the mitzvah to beautify Hashem through performing mitzvos with added beauty. This is typically referred to as “hiddur mitzvah.” Examples the Gemara brings are to make a beautiful sukkah, acquire beautiful tzitzis, etc. The term “beautiful” can have multiple meanings in this respect. One meaning is the physical beauty of the sukkah, tzitzis, and so on. Another meaning may be to perform the mitzvah with as much attention to the details of halachah and preciseness as possible. Yet another meaning may be to perform the mitzvah with much love and joy. The Sefer Chareidim (Rav Elazar ben Moshe Azikri, 1533-1600) lists all of these aspects (and more) of how we perform mitzvos as important ingredients of our mitzvos. Mitzvos will ultimately be evaluated based on the quality of how we perform them, which include all the aspects we have mentioned and more. The Sefer Chareidim, in his list of 17 “ingredients,” lists the first four as: kavanah (intent), fear (awareness of the presence of Hashem), love, and simchah (joy of performing Hashem’s mitzvah). Those seem to be most important to the Sefer Chareidim.
The other understanding in the Gemara of “Zeh Keili v’anveihu” is to emulate Hashem’s midos. This means not just to perform acts of compassion and kindness, but rather to become a person of compassion and kindness.
HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was once seen getting ready to make the annual brachah on a budding fruit tree. Someone came over to him and informed him that down the block there is a home with two budding fruit trees. The person who informed him did so because it is a hiddur mitzvah to make the brachah on two trees rather than one lone tree and was suggesting that HaRav Shlomo Zalman recite the brachah on those trees instead of this one, in order to beautify the mitzvah. HaRav Shlomo Zalman responded, “Do you see the widow standing at the side of this house, waiting and hoping for people to come and make a brachah on her tree? That is MY hiddur mitzvah.”
Let us now combine all three meanings of “Zeh Keili v’anveihu.” The way in which we can make ourselves into a dwelling that the Sh’chinah will feel comfortable residing in, is to perform His mitzvos with awareness, enthusiasm, love, and joy – and to refine our character by emulating His midos – eventually making ourselves into compassionate, kind, patient, and loving people. Our daily recitation of the words “Zeh Keili v’anveihu” is an opportune time to remind ourselves of our mission to build our inner selves into a comfortable dwelling for the Sh’chinah.