This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Terumah (5765)
This week's section tells us about building the Tabernacle; the House of G-d.
The G-d of Israel is infinite and unlimited. He creates all being, physical as well as spiritual, constantly; (He's creating you and everything around you right now) He permeates all existence and there is nothing but Him (Ain Od Milvado). That is what it means G-d is ONE.
And in the Ten Commandments Judaism forbids worshiping anything else, It's called idolatry.
So isn't it misleading for G-d to order the Jews to build a Tabernacle (Bait Ha Mikdash)? If He can be in a house it seems to make Him limited! And that is the OPPOSITE of Judaism.
And it is even more misleading when we read that in the innermost sanctum of this Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, were two statues! Two "Keruvim" (baby's
faces) that protruded from the "Kaporet" (the lid on the ark) - over the very Tablets that prohibited idolatry!! (25:18)
To understand this, here is a very short version of a long and beautiful story I heard first-hand.
If you would have seen her twenty five years ago she looked like every other nun in the convent.
Tova Mordechi was born Jewish. Her mother and father met in Egypt when he was a handsome soldier serving the English army and she was a simple semi-assimilated Jewish girl who knew little about her heritage.
They became engaged and when he finished his army service they moved to England and got married. It was there that he convinced her to convert to the Anglican Church and join him in spreading the 'word' as a missionary.
So when their daughter, Tova (at that time it was a different name), was born and demonstrated religious tendencies it was natural to send her to a nunnery where she could devote herself, ('get married' so-to-speak) to the Episcopalian idea of god.
She spent her days and nights in constant prayer, meditation and devotion and it seemed she was on the highway to heaven until a surprise visit from her uncle, her mother's brother from Israel, changed things.
Tova was in her late teens by that time. Her uncle was a simple good hearted fellow. Two things impressed her about him; first, that he took the trouble to visit her and second, he kept reminding her that she was Jewish.
The visit was only for a half an hour or so but as he left he gave her a present which would alter her life; a mezuzah. She slipped it into an envelope and put it in a drawer next to her bed.
Months went by and she almost forgot about it but then it started bothering her. Sometimes she would just open the drawer and feel it. And occasionally, when she was sure no one was in the hall near her room, she would take it out and gaze at it - but not for long. If the headmaster caught her it would mean punishment and worst of all, confiscation.
True, she was a devoted nun, destined for salvation and everlasting bliss while the Jews, so she had been taught, were heretics destined for hell. The problem was that she knew nothing, and thought there was nothing to learn, about Judaism. And now she was curious.
Maybe if the convent hadn't been so insanely oppressive she would have just brought her questions to the headmaster and he could have swept the whole thing under the carpet. But it wasn't that way. She had to keep it all to herself.
A while later she happened to remember that on one of her walks in the city with a superior nun she had passed a synagogue. Now she decided that she would return there on her own and maybe learn something.
So she put on her best nun's habit (uniform) early one Saturday morning, walked to the Synagogue and entered the women's section. But, needless to say, she was not received warmly.
She found an empty seat, tried not to notice the cold, horrified stares, sat down for a minute or two and then upped and left.
But she had done it. She sat with Jews in a Jewish building.
But that didn't mean she was convinced. Far from it! As far as she was concerned the nunnery was her home and the Church was her soul. And she certainly did not identify with those Synagogue women! But something was happening.
The headmaster noticed that she was daydreaming and began to interrogate.
When she mentioned something about Judaism he screamed that she was possessed, he would get the demons out of her and she again became silent.
It was several months later that she came across a brochure about Passover from a Jewish organization called Chabad. She read it over and over. It had unusual ideas about freedom and the birth of the Jewish nation as G-d's people. At the bottom of the back page was a telephone number for Rabbi
She didn't really understand what was motivating her. Maybe it was mischievousness, maybe boredom; maybe she really was possessed with the devil. It certainly wasn't that she wanted to leave the nunnery. No no! The convent was her life! But she carried the number with her and at the next time she was alone near a phone, she called.
Rabbi Arkush sounded friendly enough. He heard her story, gave her his
address and even suggested that she come visit him for Shabbat.
Several weeks and many harrowing episodes later, Tova found herself in Rabbi Arkush's home shortly before Shabbat, beginning to regret ever leaving the nunnery.
She was trying to be helpful by washing dishes while children were running around and making noise everywhere. Soon it would be Shabbat, the holy day, and she wasn't prepared. In the convent, before major rituals she would spend hours, sometimes even days in silent pristine meditation, fasting and cleansing herself. But now she was all sweaty and dirty and unfocused. Too much noise! Too much confusion!
Her only comforting thought was that when she finished the dishes she would go take a shower and at least calm down a bit. But it wasn't to be.
"Tova?! Come!" The Rabbi's wife yelled from the other room, "It's time to light Shabbat candles! Come!"
Tova dried her hands and walked from the kitchen to the dining room where Mrs. Arkush's daughters had already begun lighting. Tova announced "Okay Mrs. Arkush, I'm just going up to wash, I'll be back in fifteen.
But the Rabbi's wife broke in. "Wash? Oh! There's no time for that Tova.
In another few minutes it will be too late, you have to light candles now!
You'd better hurry."
Tova was angry. 'What type of religion is this?' She thought to herself.
'Where is the holiness? The spirituality? The purity?! They were right when they said that Judaism was just a bunch of empty rituals!" She lit her little candle, parroted the blessing word for word after her hostess and bitterly stormed off to her room. She was blazing mad!!
"That was it!!" She said to herself as she ascended the stairs to her room "I'm going back! I'm getting out of here!" but she wasn't expecting what was in store for her.
She opened the door to her room and suddenly she felt it!
Tears came to her eyes. She felt like a little child embraced in the holy, warm, oneness of Shabbat. Everything around her was beautiful, deep and alive. The colors were vivid, the entire universe was singing - Shabbat!
All her anger, her bitterness, her entire past.was gone!
She had never experienced anything like it .but it was the most familiar feeling she had ever had.
She knew she had come home.
This answers our question. Tova discovered the secret of the Holy Temple; namely G-d reveals Himself ONLY in this physical world.
The upper spiritual worlds and heavens are incomprehensibly wonderful pristine levels of creation. But they are, nevertheless, creation. Only in this physical world can we serve, and give pleasure to, the Creator!!
And this was the message and purpose of the Tabernacle (and Temple); a PHYSICAL place where the Jews could FEEL that they are G-d's SERVANTS.
But the Holy of Holies had a different, even deeper message: that we are G-d's CHILDREN.
Even if we don't serve Him, no matter how far away we are (like Tova in the
nunnery) nevertheless G-d will still search for us like a father for his lost child... and forgive us as well.
This was the message of the 'Keruvim' (the children's faces) coming from the 'Kaporet' (which means 'forgiveness') in the Holy of Holies.
That is why we long for Moshiach to rebuild the Third and final Temple.
Because then, all the Jews will realize that they are servants and sons of G-d. Then the world will be filled with all the things that Tova felt when she opened that door and much more.
It all depends on us, in the language of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to "open our eyes and see...."
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