by Rabbi Dovid Green
In last week's parsha (Exodus 25:1-9) we find a list of all the materials
which G-d required of the Jews in order to build the (Mishkan) Sanctuary.
Among the materials are gold, silver, copper, various colors of dyed wool,
linen, animal skins, logs, precious stones, and others. All of these
materials are necessary in some way for the actual creation of the
Sanctuary. Seemingly out of place in this list are in verse 6: oil for
light, and a list of spices which would be blended for use in the annointing
oil, and the incense. These are not for the building and institution of the
Sanctuary, rather they are used in the actual service in the Sanctuary after
the building is completed. Why are they mentioned here?
Rabbi Sampson Raphael Hirsch (19th century) addresses this issue. In
his inimitable style he cites passages from the end of Leviticus (26), which
is the book dealing with the laws regarding consecration of the Temple, and
our lives. There it states G-d's promise "If you will go in My statues...and
I'll place My sanctuary among you." To quote Rabbi Hirsch: When the verse
states "and I'll dwell among you", ...it extends far beyond the mere
presence of G-d in the Temple, but that it means the proximity of G-d on our
midst, showing itself...in the whole happiness and prosperity of our private
and national life under His protection and blessing. ...this blessing...is
not brought about by the mere building and upkeeping of the Sanctuary,
but...by consecrating and giving up our whole private and public lives to
carrying out the Divine Torah."
Rabbi Hirsch explains the meaning of the oil and the incense spices
in this vein. His premise is that if these materials are mentioned among the
things going into the building of the Sanctuary, then they are essential to
the fulfilment of the purpose of the Sanctuary. The oil, and the burning of
the lights represent the illumination and clarity of mind which we receive
through Torah learning. The burning of the spices represent the sublimation
of our actions to the inspiration and direction we receive through learning,
and turning them into something pleasing to G-d. The combination of diligent
study of the Law, together with its performance, must be "built" into the
foundations of the Sanctuary.
Again, in this week's parsha we find the discussion of the Priestly
garments preceded by the introduction of the oil for the lighting of the
Menorah. At this point we are immediately following the orders to build the
Sanctuary. Rabbi Hirsch explains that two things are indicated here. To
quote: "On the one hand the care of the lights is the duty which in point of
time takes precedence over all other duties, (just) as the clearness of
mental vision which is to be derived from the Torah, is the "mother" of
keeping the dictates of the Torah." He quotes the sages of the Talmud,
"Great is Torah study, for it stimulates action. "On the other hand, that
the essential mission of the Kohain (Priest) is nurturing the enlightenment
that is derived from the Torah."
The discussion again of the lights which represent Torah
enlightenment precede the discussion of the priestly garments to convey to
us who their wearers should be to us. They represent the enlightenment and
importance of Torah. Even their clothing bespeaks purity, honor and dignity,
and needless to say, so must their actions. Nowadays we have no Temple, and
no service that goes along with the Temple. We must be the representatives
of the enlightenment of Torah and its values. The following story told by
Rabbi Pesach Krohn illustrates this point beautifully.
A religious man stopped along a New York road to make a call at a
pay phone. There on the phone lay an address book. The man picking it up
began to look for a name identifying its owner. After much futile effort, he
finally happened upon a number of a "Ma" with a (305) Florida area code.
Later he called the number, and after a lengthy but pleasant long distance
conversation, he received the necessary information and duly returned the
address book intact to a thankful young woman.
A week later the man received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from
the owner of the address book. Curious, he called the young woman for an
explanation. She told him the following. "I became Torah observant about
five years ago, and my mother was so opposed, that she broke off all contact
with me. Things remained status quo until last week when you called her. Not
long after speaking with you, she called me. She apologized and said that if
I am part of such a group of people who show such concern for each other,
even to call long distance to try to track down the owner of a lost article,
then how could she be against it? Your good deed brought a mother and
daughter back together!"
These are the kinds of deeds which contribute to having the
Sanctuary in our midst. Let's see what we can do individually, and as a
community, to merit having the Sanctuary in our own midst speedily in our
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.