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
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
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).
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