Following the sin of the Golden Calf G-d told Moshe to command the Jews to make a Mishkan (Tabernacle) for Him, (25:8) “…And I will dwell in their midst.” In other words, G-d was reassuring the nation that He was not going to withdraw from them. They were still going to be His kingdom of priests; they were still going to be His holy nation.
That didn’t mean that things would be the same and the relationship would go back to the way it had been. There would be significant changes; however, G-d would still dwell in their midst. As such, the presence of the Mishkan in their midst was intended to reassure them that regardless of the changes G-d still loved them and desired to have a relationship with them – and not just any relationship – G-d desired to have a daily, ongoing, constant relationship with them.
Therefore, we would not be wrong in saying that the commandment to build the Mishkan was a profoundly sensitive and important act of Chesed (kindness) on G-d’s part. It also follows that the Bais Hamikdash (Temple) that replaced the Mishkan was intended by G-d to convey the same message; the message of G-d’s loving kindness.
(It also explains why the format of Tefilah (daily prayer) is directed in word and venue toward the physical location of where the Bais Hamikdash will one day be rebuilt. It is to remind us of our ongoing relationship with G-d and the Chesed on His part in wanting a relationship with us regardless of who we are and what we have done)
How important is it to believe that G-d desires having a relationship with us? Is it more important, less important or the same as our desiring a relationship with G-d? Granted, relationships usually involve two or more parties giving and receiving from each other; however, with G-d it seems that it should be different. With G-d we start with knowing that we cannot give anything to G-d. There is nothing that He needs – He has no needs! How do we have a relationship with an entity that needs nothing? What can we possibly offer G-d in return for His loving us?
It might be that we do have something that we can offer G-d even if He does not need it. The one thing we can offer G-d is our desire to have a relationship with Him. The one thing G-d created that He intentionally does not control is our free will. As it is stated, “Everything is in the hands of G-d (within His active control) except for being in awe of G-d.” As the verse says, “What does G-d ask of you except to be in awe of Him…” To be in awe of G-d is to willfully humble ourselves and subjugate ourselves to His will. That is the one thing we can give back to G-d. Please understand that without it, G-d is not lacking for anything. His existence is unaffected by our doing or not doing; however, He did create free will and He left it up to us to decide if we want to have a relationship with Him. If we decide that we do want a relationship with G- d we offer Him the one thing He has deliberately left up to us.
Still the question, “How important is it to believe that G-d desires having a relationship with us?”
I would like to suggest that believing that G-d desires to have a relationship with us is more important than our desire to have a relationship with Him. Parenting and teaching are a wonderful example of this dynamic. It is noted by all the commentaries that the Torah did not command us to love our parents. We were commanded to honor them and be in awe of them (Kavod and Yirah) but not to love them. That is because children often do not actively love their parents – even with the best of children and the best of parents. Parenting demands that we challenge our children to discover who they are and then challenge them to become more than who they think they are. Such a relationship assumes cognitive and emotional dissonance that often relegates love to some back corner of the heart.
Let’s talk punishment and consequence. Parenting must include consequences, both positive and negative. A good parent bites the bullet of reluctance and does what he or she must do to help the child become the more that they can be. It would be unfair and untrue to say that the parents do not love their child as they bury the car keys in the family time capsule. Just the opposite! Such parents love their child the way parents should love their child. The punishment might include irrevocable changes in trust and expectation; however, despite those changes, the parent still desires the constancy and intimacy of a relationship with the child.
Unfortunately, it is G-d’s cosmic joke that our children do not understand that kind of love until they find themselves doing the very same thing to their own children. Then they realize that their parents always loved them in ways that they will spend their lifetimes discovering and appreciating. Often, it takes such an epiphany on the part of a child to let go of anger against a parent and begin healing.
The truth is that most of our children know and assume the constancy of our love for them. It is just more convenient for them to selectively forget that love when their young passions and emotions take hold. Nevertheless, it would be wonderful if they knew and appreciated the degree of our love for them even as we bury the car keys along with the time capsule. How different our relationships would be!
The same thing is true with G-d. At the moments of our confusion and questions we tend to forget His ever present love; instead, we focus on the difficulties and uncertainties. We seek knew ways of making the world right and gaining greater control over the circumstances of our lives. What we should be doing is reminding ourselves how much G-d really and truly loves us; how much He would never wish to harm us; how much G-d cares for us and protects us.
The importance of knowing that G-d desires to have a relationship with us is the knowledge and acknowledgment of who we are and what we are capable of being. It is the source of our security and comfort and the reality of our pride and purpose.
The Four Parshios
Practically speaking, Shabbos was the one-day during the week when the community gathered. Therefore, the Rabbis chose Shabbos as the most opportune time to make timely Halachik and communal announcements. Associating these announcements with a Torah portion is indicative of the focus that each of us is supposed to have in regards to integrating G-d (G-d) into our lives. These announcements were not simply relegated to a public pronouncement or a few lines on a sheet, but were associated with the reading and the study of Torah.
There are four special Shabbosim preceding Pesach when additional portions from the Torah are read. Set rules determine when each of these additional Parshios is to be read.
Parshas Shekalim, the first of the special Shabbosim preceding Pesach, is read on the Shabbos that precedes the month of Adar, or the Shabbos of Rosh Chodesh Adar (when Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos coincide). Parshas Zachor is read on the Shabbos before Purim. Parshas Parah is read on the Shabbos before the Shabbos of Parshas Hachodesh. Parshas Hachodesh is read on the Shabbos before the month of Nissan or the Shabbos of Rosh Chodesh Nissan (when Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos coincide). Shekalim A key function of the Bais Hamikdash was the offerings of the daily, Korban Tzibur – communal offerings. The designation of “communal” was because every male adult, 20 years and older, donated a ½ shekel toward the purchase of the daily communal offerings. (Inherent in the concept of the ½ shekel and the communal offerings was the importance of family units, not individuals.) These monies were gathered and used to purchase the daily sacrifices. The law requires that all offerings must be purchased from monies collected for that year. The fiscal year for public offerings was from Nissan to Nissan. Therefore, the Rabbi’s ordained that the portion of the Torah (Ki Tisa) describing the first collection of the ½ shekel be read on the Shabbos of or before Rosh Chodesh Adar, one month before the ½ shekel was due, as a reminder that everyone should send in their money.
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley Village, CA, and Assistant Principal of YULA.