They shall make for Me a (Mikdash) Sanctuary that I may dwell among them – in conformance with all that I show you, the form of the (Mishkan) Tabernacle and the form of all its vessels; and so you shall do! (Shemos 25:8-9)
Why is the promise of making a Mikdash-Tabernacle “that I may dwell among them”? Rather, it should have concluded that I will dwell in “it”- the sanctuary.
There are certain Midrashim that are so well known, so famous that little children all over the Jewish world sings songs about them at Siddur parties and school performances. Here’s one that should awaken a memory or two, “Hashem gave us a present. Do you know what it was? He gave us the Torah and we must obey its laws. He asked the other nations ‘Do you want this gift of mine?’ They said ‘No thank you, For the Torah there is no time.’ Then to B’nei Yisroel Hashem did go. They said “Naase V’nishma ‘cause we love Hashem so!”
Maybe because they are children songs we are too often left with a childish and even cartoonish memory or impression of what might be the most grandiose of ideas. What does it mean that HASHEM offered the other nations the Torah? How do we understand that when offered, they asked what is written in it, and upon hearing about certain keys laws they refused? Then when we were offered we unanimously agreed that “We will do (first) and (then) understand”!? How does one do before understanding? What does all this mean to you and me?
There’s a Mishne in Pirke Avos that may just be the key. “Let your house be a meeting place for sages…” (Avos 1:4) Rabeinu Yona confirms the notion that one’s home should be a place where the wise congregate. How is it possible to fulfill this principle as a universal maxim? Only certain people will merit hosting the sages when the class or the parlor meeting is taking place. Not everyone can be expected to complete this ideal. There will always be more homes than sages to fill them up. How can every individual house be that meeting place for the sages? How do we make practical sense of it?
I once heard such a beautiful explanation of this Mishne. “Yehi Beis’cha…Let your house be…” Your home should be the type of environment that the sages would feel as comfortable entering as you would be hosting them. Imagine that you find out that the Gadol HaDor, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman shlita is coming to your house.
Now how much discomfort would that bring? How much joy?! How much would the pictures on the walls, the technological instrumentations, and the tone of the house have to be adjusted to accommodate that brief stay?! Now what if it turned out to be a visit for a whole day, and then you discover he is staying an entire week, and then this great man decides to move in! Would it be received as great news or terrible news?
Sure most people can control themselves for the duration of a religious service for an hour or two once a week. However, how many would feel comfortable enough to invite the Divine Presence into the midst of their house forever!?
When the other nations refused the Torah it was a sad but honest admission that Torah was not neat and comfortable fit. Certain aspects, yes, sure, but other mandatory requirements would feel far too restrictive and inhibiting to some part of their passion and/ or fancy.
When the Nation of Israel accepted the Torah they were not only acknowledging for themselves back then but for us too, now, and for all time, that the Torah and HASHEM’s expectations agree with us. It may seem to the untutored eye like an overwhelmingly awesome task and one can easily be intimidated by by the thought of all the demands but once we would begin doing them then it would be understood how perfect the match really is.
The ultimate opportunity to demonstrate this truth is accompanied by the Commandment to “make for Me a Mikdash and I shall dwell among them”. The actual act of doing and building a Mishkan according to The Almighty’s specifications may just be the sincerest invitation we can offer HASHEM to live in our midst.