Parashas Terumah

In this week’s parashah, Hashem instructs Moshe about the building of the Mishkan. Hashem prefaces the detailed instructions with a general statement of purpose (Shemos 25:8): “They shall make for Me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell in their midst.” The Midrash comments (Shemos Rabbah 33:1):
Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to the People of Israel: “I sold you My Torah, and I sold Myself, so to speak, along with it.” … An analogy: A king had an only daughter. Another king married her, and set out to return home with his new wife. The king said to him: “The daughter I have given you is my only one. I cannot part with her, yet I cannot tell you not to take her, for she is your wife. So do me a favor: wherever you go, make for me a small chamber so that I may dwell with you, for I cannot simply leave her to you.” Thus said the Holy One Blessed Be He to the People of Israel: “I gave you My Torah. I cannot part with it, yet I cannot tell you not to take it. So, wherever you go, make for Me a house for Me dwell in.”
This Midrash is charming, but the Maggid points out that it seems not to add up. If Hashem felt that He could not part from the Torah, why didn’t He just keep it with Him in heaven? Why did he give it to us, and then insist on a dwelling place among us so that He could keep the Torah close to Him?
The Maggid then presents a brilliant resolution to this conundrum. He follows Rashi’s view that Hashem told Moshe to build the Mishkan after the Jewish People sinned with the golden calf, even though the Torah records the events in reverse order (in line with the principle that the Torah is not bound to chronological order). From this vantage point, he explains as follows. At the time of the revelation at Sinai, the Jewish People were purged of the primeval spiritual defilement that had entered man when Adam ate from the forbidden tree. They then recovered the elevated position that Hashem had originally intended for man to occupy: an intermediate station between the heavenly realm and the earthly realm. It was on this basis that Hashem gave the Jewish People the Torah – when they received it, they were close enough to the heavenly realm that Hashem did not regard it as being too far from Him.
But when the Jewish People commited the sin of the golden calf, the primeval defilement re-entered them, and they fell from their lofty station. They had returned, as Adam had, to the soil from whence they came – that is, they descended, taking the Torah with them, to a station rooted in the earthly realm. Under this state of affairs, Hashem considered the separation between Him and His Torah unacceptable. Yet He had already given the Jewish People the Torah, and He wished to let them keep it. He therefore asked them to build Him a sanctuary in their midst. In this way, Hashem could bring the sanctity of heaven down to earth, and thereby restore the Jewish People to an intermediate position between the completely holy and the completely mundane.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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