Wednesday, March 14, 2007

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The Gift of Giving

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

In this week’s portion of the Torah, Moshe “assembled the entire assembly of the Children of Israel,”[i] and told them of the opportunity to bring gifts of materials and skills that were needed to build the Mishkan and its vessels. This is stated as a command for those whose hearts motivated them to contribute.

These gifts were to build and furnish the physical place where God would reveal His presence. At the time this command was given, these donations were the actual physical contributions that were offered. Today, these “donations” refer to the spiritual endeavors we do that will lead to the revelation of Hashem’s presence to us now.

When the gifts of gold were given, the Torah says they were “raised up.” The actual items that were required, such as dyes, wool, linen, goat hair, skins, acacia wood, spices, oil, precious stones and such, were “brought.” The labors were “done.” And the donations of silver or copper were “separated.”

Each of these acts represents one level of our possible service to Hashem. Labor obviously represents our deeds. We must do what needs to be done to serve Hashem. This is not merely referring to the deeds that are required to build the Mishkan, but also the deeds that are necessary to fulfill all of the mitzvot and the needs of the community. For us, this means that today Hashem has inspired the hearts of certain people with wisdom, or He has motivated them to contribute and bring their freewill offerings, and to bring any of the work that Hashem has commanded.[ii]

The point is that the work of building the Mishkan is ongoing. It is by our freewill donations of our labor that this aspect of His “Dwelling Place” is revealed still to this day.

We can also learn here about the nature of spiritual service. We saw that the donations of gold are elevated, while the donations of silver are merely separated. Why the difference? It is because man is more attached to gold than to silver; it is more precious to him. So when he gives it, it is actually elevated. But when silver, which is more common, is given, it is merely put to the side, separated, designated for the service.

Gold stands for fear, and silver stands for love. We see from this that, ultimately, fear of God is greater than love of God. Why is this? Because if you serve someone out of love, you will do whatever he wants because you love serving him. But at times, even though you still love him, you can be lazy and put off that service. However, if you fear someone, you are going to do what he wants whether you want to or not. No matter what, you will try to fulfill his wishes.

In the end, we will see that the highest of the highs is fear of God, which is awe, but also we will find love included within.

and Above the Holy

This cloud that covered the Mishkan and was filled with the glory of Hashem was the same cloud that led the Children of Israel throughout the forty years of wandering in the wilderness.

But the cloud did not continue leading the Jewish People in that way when we came into the Land of Israel. This was one of the reasons why the Jews did not want to enter the land. They knew that their lives in the land were to be more physical and that the spiritual was not going to be so apparent.

But even though that glory was not so evident on a daily basis it did appear on the day that the First Temple was dedicated. The glory of Hashem appeared and was so strong that the priests were unable to function.[iii]

In the First Temple, the Ark was housed in the most holy area of the Temple, called the Holy of Holies. This was a room where only the High Priest could enter, and he could enter it only on the holiest day of the year. He entered only after great preparations. There are different opinions whether or not the ark was ever in the Second Temple. One opinion states that it was in a secret room underneath the Holy of Holies.

Above the Holy of Holies was another room. This room was so mystical that nothing is written about it at all! We know nothing about it except its dimensions and these are not stated; we know them only because we know the dimensions of the Holy of Holies beneath it. From its location, we can, however, discern an important teaching.

The highest revelation of God available to us after Mount Sinai was in the Mishkan and in the Temples. The Holiest place there was in the Holy of Holies. The Holiest place in the Holy of Holies was above the Ark, between the Cherubim, from where God would speak. But as holy as this spot and moment were, way above this there is an entirely higher, greater and completely unknowable realm. This upper room hints to this unknowable realm.

According to Ezekiel’s vision, this most high room will not even be in the Third Temple! But we are told that the Third Temple will be much greater than all that preceded it. So why will this wondrous upper room be missing? Because with the coming of the Moshiac and the building of the Third Temple, the tremendous degree of revelation that the upper, most mystical room represented will be brought down here into this world.

[i] Ex 35:1
[ii] Ex 35:22-29
[iii] 1 Kings 8:11

Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.

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