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The Quest for Happiness in the Context of Parshat Teruma

Published on Friday March 19th, 2021

Parashat Teruma rounds off the exodus and liberation of the children of Israel, which began with their departure from Egypt. Later, the gift of the Torah and the ten commandments followed. Now, the time has come to establish a "dwelling" place for the Lord in the midst of the Jewish people.

Actually, the Mishkan project is over and above the exodus. Its completion is a Tikkun for the original transgression which removed the Divine Presence from the world. Now, with a Mishkan as His dwelling place, Hashem agrees to reside amongst his People.

The message of our Parsha reminds us of the outstanding dignity attributed by Hashem to man and to the world, which we should never ignore.

Indeed, when the world is worthy of having the Divine Presence dwell in its midst, we are reassured and reminded that Hashem has never abandoned the world, nor forsaken men to a pre-established or pre-determined fate ruled randomly by the laws of nature. Quite the contrary, Hashem has always remained present among men.

It is pertinent to mention that there are no two separate orders in the Torah: the world belonging to men on the one hand, and Heaven, Hashem’s dwelling place, on the other. On the contrary, men are residents of the world and their job is to make the world a dwelling place for the Lord. Torah study, the practice of Mitzvot and refining human qualities are the tools at our disposal to achieve this.

Contrary to Plato’s theory of the "cave", which according to many spiritual disciplines, is a degraded reflection of a higher and loftier world, the Torah refuses this dualism and recommends a much more ambitious and optimistic human project. It is not a question of withdrawing from the material world, but of attempting to continuously elevate it to make it a suitable place for Hashem to dwell in.

The erection of a sanctuary in the midst of the People bears the following message: man has the ability to welcome God in his midst and restore the world’s loftiest dignity, as was intended from the beginning of Creation.

This is a great responsibility. But it is also a noble privilege,  available to each and every each man. Awareness of the intrinsic value of every man in the eyes of the Lord ought to fill a man with joy. His spiritual accomplishment does not depend on the denial or withdrawal of his human nature. On the contrary, it depends on his ability to refine the world in order to achieve a synthesis between the spiritual and material dimensions.

This personal process of refining the attributes of heart and soul can be achieved by every man, regardless of his level. When a man tries to genuinely approach Hashem, he participates in the divine project, he strives to elevate his worldly nature and he creates a dwelling place for the Divine Presence on earth.

Let us remember the prophetic words read in the Haftarah of Shabbat Rosh Chodesh: "The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath my hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and tremble at my word”. (Isaiah 66: 1-4).

And, in fact, creating a home for Hashem may seem ludicrous vis-a-vis God's infiniteness and transcendence. But Hashem bestows this precious gift upon man, so he may connect his limited and material life to the infinity of God, and in so doing, introduce a transcendent and pure dimension into his existence. How is this achieved?

No material labor or expenditure of money is required; no theoretical knowledge is needed. Hashem simply begs a man to open his heart and mind to the world He has graciously given him. He only asks us to authentically draw closer to Him, despite our limitations, while remaining aware of our prominent dignity in His eyes.

So, while we patiently wait for the imminent emergence of our Third Temple, let us offer to Hashem a dwelling place which nothing can destroy: the dwelling in our hearts!

Shabbat Shalom!

Jérome TOUBOUL - © Torah-Box Account

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