This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Terumah (5771)
This week we learn the commandment of building a ‘holy’ house (Mikdash) for G-d. This is one of the most important commands in The Book. Indeed it is the goal of Judaism and one of the first and most important jobs of Moshiach will be to build a Holy Temple in Jerusalem and gather all the Jews etc. (see Rambam Hil. Melachim 11:1) just as Moses did.
But at first glance this is totally not understood. According to Jewish tradition, the Third Holy Temple (The Babylonians destroyed the first and the Romans the second) will be built by G-d Himself. As the Torah clearly states, “The Temple of G_d will be established by Your (G-d’s) hands” (Ex. 15:17).
And on the other hand, the Torah hints here that EVERY Jew is a Holy Temple, when G-d commands Moses to tell the Jews, “Make me a Temple and I’ll live in you” (not in IT).
So who is supposed to build this ‘Third’ Temple; Moshiach, G-d or the Jews?
But upon closer examination this whole idea of making a ‘house’ for ‘G-d’ seems to be ridiculous: How can G-d, infinite and almighty, live in a finite, frail, house? And, on the other hand, if a ‘House’ could contain G-d then maybe G-d isn’t infinite?!
To answer all this here is a story I read told by an old Jew that was a member of a group of Chassidim called ‘Belz’.
This old Chassid once overheard another Chassid, a family man of some forty years old, speaking very harshly against Lubavitch and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, criticizing their ‘outreach’ programs and just about everything else they did in the harshest terms. It got so severe that finally the old Chassid felt it his obligation to calm him down but only succeeded in fanning the fire. So he had no choice than to just give him a warning that he was making big mistake and walk away.
Now this younger Chassid who was doing the cursing had a twenty-year-old handsome, intelligent son who was the apple of his eye. He was so devoted to the service of The Creator that he was capable of learning Torah entire nights on end and was the perfect example of a Chassid, but after the aforementioned tirade of his father, the boy became unexplainably and totally bored with Judaism!
He suddenly stopped learning and praying and even putting on Tefillin and instead, found himself some ‘new’ friends that spent days at a time in the pubs and discos of Tel Aviv.
It wasn’t long before Tel Aviv became too small for him and he headed for the ‘real’ world; he took a flight to the U.S.A and became swallowed up in the nightlife of Manhattan. Needless to say his father was insane with grief but the boy could care less… he was having ‘fun’!
One morning, about a year later, the young man was walking home from all-night partying when suddenly a young Chabad Chassid approached him on the street with a pair of ‘Tefillin’ (Phylacteries) in hand and asked him if he was Jewish.
“No I’m not, leave me alone” he answered in his Israeli accent and figured this was the end of it. But it wasn’t.
That accent was like a green light for the ‘Chabadnik’. “Ahh, you must be an Israeli! Right?” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “Only Israelis say they aren’t Jewish. Come… put on Tefillin”.
But the young man ignored him and walked away.
A week later our young party man was walking down a different street in a different part of the city and, amazingly, was again approached….. by the same Chabadnik with the same offer… and again he refused.
Then a few weeks later he happened to pass by a large decorated caravan parked in some main street in Manhattan. Upon it was written ‘Chabad-mobile’; and from it exited the same young Chassid with a pair of Tefillin in hand, yelling in his direction “s’cuse me my friend! You Jewish?”
“What do you want from me? Leave me alone!” he yelled back, “Are you following me all over Manhattan or what? Go away!”
“Hey! You are Jewish, right?” the Chassid answered, “Hey, do me a favor and put on Tefillin. I’ve been standing here all morning and no one wants to put on. Please do a favor; you’re Jewish, right? Come put on Tefillin it will only take three minutes, you’ll like it, and it’s free.” He said with a smile.
There was something very warm and genuine in the way he said it that caught our ‘party-boy’ by surprise…. he actually rolled up his sleeve, took the Teffilin and put them on. It was like he couldn’t hold himself back.
After that, one thing led to another and instead of going to the bars he began going to farbringens (Chassidic get-togethers) and making new friends etc. etc.
A half year later he was back in Israel knocking at his father’s door, but this time again dressed in full fledged Belzer Chassid garb and much wiser.
When his father opened the door and saw his beautiful son standing there he let out a shout of joy, hugged him with all his might and began crying from sheer happiness.
But when they were sitting face to face and he asked his son what convinced him to come back and heard the answer….. suddenly it struck him like a bolt of lightning!
Because he had spoken against the Rebbe, somehow his son left Judaism. And now, because of the same Lubavitcher Rebbe, his son returned!
Immediately he decided that he must fly to New York and ask forgiveness from the Rebbe face to face. He called the travel agent.
A week later, he was standing, head bowed sheepishly before the Rebbe. As he lifted his head and looked into the Rebbe’s holy eyes he realized, even more, what a mistake he had made one and a half years ago and how he should have listened to the elder Chassid.
“Rebbe, I’m sorry” is all he could say before he burst into tears.
“When your son left you were really broken weren’t you?” The Rebbe asked him quietly.
“Rebbe, broken is not the word, I was destroyed”
“And when he returned you were happy, right” Continued the Rebbe.
“Insane with joy” the man answered.
“Well” concluded the Rebbe “Now you know how bad I feel each time any Jew leaves Judaism, and how happy I am each time any Jew returns”
This is the feeling that the Rebbe tries to inspire in each of us.
Now we can see a deeper meaning in the idea of building a Holy Temple:
The Holy Temple united two opposites. On one hand it was a physical building, but on the other hand it was pure G-dliness; higher even than the highest spiritual levels!
This is exactly the purpose of all the commandments; to unite and reveal The Creator in His creation… as we saw in our story when the physical Tefillin returned the wayward Chassid to Jewish consciousness.
And this is also the purpose of the Jews and why they are called ‘Sons of G-d” (Ex. 4:22) and G-d’s Servants (Lev. 25:55). Because they unite the highest (sons) with the lowest (servants).
And this will be the goal of Moshiach: to unite the highest with the lowest. Therefore Moshiach will, just as Moses did, reveal G-dleness in the world as well as raise all mankind to the highest levels of consciousness.
So this is why the Third Temple contains all these opposites. On one hand it will be built by Moshiach, because the Jews need such a leader to activate and inspire them (like the Rebbe did through that Chassid in our story)
On the other hand it will be built by G-d, just as the Tefillin in our story are G-d’s command and therefore had the power to awaken that lost Jew.
But finally each Jew is a Holy Temple, because, after all, the Third Temple depends on our work. The Moshiach and even G-d Himself CANNOT do it for us.
As the Lubavitcher Rebbe reminded us time and time again:
Just one more good deed, word or even thought can make it happen and bring the building of the Third Temple and ALL Jews will return home with ….
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.