Haftaras Terumah

In parallel with this week’s parashah, which deals with the building of the Mishkan, this week’s haftarah deals with Shlomo HaMelech’s construction of the Beis HaMikdash. I summarize here the Maggid’s commentary on this haftarah, in Kochav MiYaaakov.
The haftarah concludes with the following words:
The word of Hashem then came to Shlomo, saying: “This Temple that you are building – if you follow My decrees, perform My statutes, and observe all My commandments, to follow them, I shall uphold with you My word that I spoke to David your father. I shall dwell among the Children of Israel, and I shall not abandon My people Israel.”
The Maggid notes an odd feature of this passage: Hashem begins by speaking about the Holy Temple, and then breaks off in mid-sentence and changes the topic. Seemingly, He never returns to the topic of the Temple. What is the message here?
The Maggid explains as follows. Building a house for Hashem’s honor does not really mean building Him an ornate structure. Rather, it means making a place for Hashem in our hearts, by serving Him with devotion. This is what Hashem means when He says that if we observe His commandments, He will dwell among us.
Hashem concludes by saying that He will never abandon us. Even after the physical Temple is destroyed, as long as we remain devoted to serving Him, he will continue to “dwell” within our hearts.
The physical Temple is merely a mechanism to aid us in developing our relationship with Hashem. For example, as we explained in our previous post, the collection of materials for the Mishkan provided the Jews an opportunity to demonstrate their love of Hashem. Hashem does not need a “house” to dwell in on the earth. Indeed, no house could contain Him, for His glory fills the universe. In this vein, Hashem declares through His prophet Yeshayah (verse 66:1): “The heavens are My throne, and the earth is My footstool. What house can you build for Me?” Rather, the physical Temple is for our benefit, to help us draw closer to Hashem. 
The same is true of the Temple offerings. Hashem does not need us to bring Him presents. Thus, the purpose of an offering is not to supply Hashem with something. We can see this from the law that an improper thought while bringing an offering invalidates the offering. If the purpose of the offering were to supply Hashem with something, what difference would it make what the person bringing the offering was thinking? Rather, the offerings are simply a means for us to express our love of Hashem and draw closer to Him. Thus, the Hebrew word for offering, korban, derives from the Hebrew word karov, meaning “close.” When a person brings an offering, he is supposed to imagine that he is offering his own self to Hashem, subjugating his heart to Hashem’s will.
More generally, the same is true of all mitzvos. Hashem did not give us mitzvos because He needs us to take care of certain matters for Him within the world. Thus, Job’s comrade Elihu declares (Job 35:7): “If you were righteous, what did you give Him?” Similarly, our Sages teach (Bereishis Rabbah 44:1): “What does it matter to the Holy One Blessed Be He whether one slaughters [an animal for food] from the throat or slaughters from the back of the neck? Thus, the mitzvos were given only to purify man.”
 
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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