They shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell among them. (Shemos
Make for My sake a house of holiness. (Rashi)
If HASHEM commissioned the creation of a “Mikdash”-Sanctuary, why then
does Rashi employ the term “Bais”-house? What’s the difference between
a “Mikdash” and “Bais”? Somebody once pointed out to me that the numerical
value of “Mikdash”-444 minus the numerical value of “Bais”-412 equals= 32
the numerical value of the word “Lev”- “heart”. The difference between
Mikdash and Bais is Lev-Heart. Maybe that’s why Rashi defines the Mikdash
as a house of holiness for HASHEM’s sake! Without those critical features
at the heart of it all, the structure may just be another architectural
phenomenon- a building. What does that heart look like so that one might
convert a house into a Mikdash?
It was a moving day 21 years ago. I thought my back was broken. I did it
mostly myself and with a little help from my friends. Weeks earlier we had
committed ourselves to a 30 year mortgage and now that day had arrived to
transfer all our worldly possessions into that newly purchased house. With
a two little boys in tow I dutifully made trip after trip bringing in the
tons of boxes, placing the furniture, and assembling cribs and the like.
By the time the day was over and the children had settled down my wife and
I sat exhausted on the couch surrounded by stacks of unpacked boxes
scattered about including a pizza box on the living room floor brimming
with soda cans. Surveying the room and feeling the house intuitively
with an almost faraway tone my wife uttered the following shocking
phrase, “I don’t like it!” My heart fell into the pit of my stomach. My
initial male ego response would have been to remind her that she chose the
place also and to ask her why she’s voicing her objection now etc. Maybe I
was too tired for that but what did enter my mind at that moment was a
statement from the sages of the Talmud.
I imagined that if life was musical now would be the time for a song. I
arose from the couch where I was seated and, without musical
accompaniment, launched into a marvelous soliloquy that my wife and I both
remember to this very day. I said, “The house can’t make you happy. No
house can make anybody happy. The Talmud says, “The place doesn’t give
honor to the man but rather the man gives honor to the place.” We’re gonna
put Mezuzas on these doorposts and enjoy Shabbos meals together in that
dining room. We’re gonna raise our children here and we’ll teach’m a world
of good. We’ll make millions of Brochos! We’ll have Shabbos guests galore.
We’ll make Sheva Brochos and so much more. We’re going to make the house
happy. We’ve got the rest of our lives to unpack these boxes but the goal
is to fill this place up with Neshama!” I didn’t quite get the applause I
thought I deserved but there was a deep acknowledgement of what I had said
and resignation to the task at hand. That became and has been the theme
for the past 21 years and looking back I’m sure glad we had that chance to
reflect on a house yet without a beating heart and to imagine what a
Mikdash it might be.
Dovid HaMelech writes in Tehillim (26:8), “HASHEM, I love the Dwelling,
Your house, the place where Your glory resides.” The Kotzker Rebbe ztl.
noted about Dovid’s declaration. Why do I love your place? Because that’s
where Your glory resides.
When the Kotzer Rebbe was yet a precocious boy his Rebbe asked him, “Where
can HASHEM be found?” The future Rebbe of Kotzk answered, “HASHEM is
everywhere!” The Rebbe shook his head disapprovingly signaling that he had
answered wrongly. The Kotzker Rebbe insisted that HASHEM is truly
everywhere! Finally his Rebbe told him the correct answer to the
question, “Where can HASHEM be found?” “Wherever He is allowed to enter!”
It’s perhaps for this reason alone there’s no place like home!