The Creation and The Sanctuary
Parshas Terumah, Feb. 23-24, 1996
In the Talmud and Medrash, the construction of the Tabernacle is compared to
the creation of the world.
A Medrash, referred to in the commentary Maor Veshamash, relates
that Moshe asked G-d why a physical sanctuary would be needed. After all,
G-d fills heaven and earth! G-d replied that he had created all, but could
contract His presence into a single cubit. The commentary questions this
medrash at length.
It is known that the Ari, the great kabbalist of the modern era,
founded much of his acclaimed new school on the concept of Tzimtzum --
contraction. The entire universe came into existence through a complex
system of veils, screens and filters. Radiation emanating from the
Almighty's initial creation was gradually cooled and solidified until this
material universe could eventually come about.
Scientists say that one of the remarkable (and less known)
discoveries of the twentieth century is that the elements that comprise our
very bodies come from remote stars. Yet, if it weren't for intricate
atmospheric barriers and vast expanses of space, those very stars would
consume us with their intensity...
G-d exists everywhere, but His revelation will only occur at times
and places when and where He sees fit. The special place dedicated and
isolated for intense service, service requiring study and preparation --
becomes refined, filtered. This is our life -- to filter, to refine, to
dedicate ourselves to the most refined Being in the universe -- the Creator
of all. Infinite though He is, He is able to refine and contract His light
to the tiniest point.
As we have noted in the past, Einstein struggled for his last years
to find the link between the order of the vast universe described in the
theory of Relativity, and the apparent chaos of quantum mechanics, which
deals with subatomic particles. How is the microcosm contained within the
It is precisely the relationship between the infinite and the finite
that the kabbalists of the 15th and 16th centuries were describing...
Another Medrash is cited by the Chassidic work, Igra D'kala: "Until
the marriage, the groom visits his bride at her father's house. From the
wedding onward, the father-in-law visits his daughter at her house... Moshe
had to go into the cloud at Mount Sinai to commune with the Creator. From
then onward, the Divine Presence would come to Moshe at the Tabernacle..."
The Igra D'kala ties this in with the traditional interpretation of the
verse (Exodus 25:2), " 'They shall take to me donations (for the
Tabernacle):' They shall take Me with their donations..." When man extends
himself to G-d, G-d extends Himself to man.
Straight and Curved
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (quoted in The Voice of the Torah)
explained why the Tabernacle and its vessels contained straight lines and
rectangles. The natural world uses curves and spheres. Man, however, takes
the environment and orders it with his simple logic: Make it flat,
straight, organized. The service in the Tabernacle would thus be to take
the natural world, order it with our own intelligence and linear logic, and
sublimate it, direct it back to the Creator. The service is therefore the
meeting of the profane and the holy: The animal is elevated through man's
control; then, once dedicated and refined, is returned to G-d.
The uniqueness of man is in his ability to relate to the most minute
particle and the vast expanse -- nay -- the infinite.
Indeed, just as scientists are still struggling with Einstein's
search for the unified field theory, they are struggling to unravel the
complexity of the human mind, with its self-organizing abilities. Roger
Penrose, Nobel laureate, indicates that the reality underlying quantum
mechanics and the ability of the human mind to quickly synthesize data, are
intimately related. See Scientific American, Book Reviews, June 1995. To
us, man is the one earthy being who can perceive the Filters of the Infinite
One (and the Unfiltered Light). Man, as well -- being in the image of the
Creator -- can take a multitude of things, filter and refine them, and
elevate them for the sake of the Higher Power.