by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
The Shechina is God’s revealed Presence. His Presence is everywhere at all times, but obviously, the revelation of His Presence is not always seen. He hides His Presence from us in order to give us free will. If His Presence were not hidden, no one would sin. Who would sin while standing before the Judge?
When G-d commanded the Jewish People to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle), He said that it was for Him to “dwell among”[i] us. The Hebrew roots of the words Mishkan and Shechina are the same. The primary function of the Mishkan and the latter Temples was the revelation of His glorious Presence. The service in the Temple was His way of allowing us to do something that would lead to that revelation. Although the Temple is not presently standing, still, even today, on very rare occasions, G-d does allow His Presence to be revealed.
When, with His most gracious blessing, the revelation of His Presence does occur, what does one see? Does everyone who is blessed to see this revelation, experience the same thing?
Everyone sees the same thing, but only according to their individual capacity. A person who has worked hard to learn Torah and do mitzvahs, and who has developed his spiritual awareness, has a greater capacity than someone who has not worked in these areas. They both will see the Presence of G-d, but at completely different degrees or magnitudes. This is true today, just as it was in the Mishkan and Temples, and it will be this way in the World to Come. Not everyone who went to the Temple in Jerusalem had the same spiritual experience. Each received according to his personal level.
Think of two people standing in two different rooms looking at the sun, or a bright night sky, through holes drilled in the ceilings. In one ceiling the hole is quite large, while in the other ceiling the hole is much smaller. The person looking through the smaller hole is still seeing the sun or stars, but at a much less intense, or narrower spectrum than the one who is looking through the larger hole.
A person who has not worked to accomplish the spiritual goal will view the vision as if he is looking through dusty eyeglasses, while the one who has worked hard will see it with his clear, bare eyes.
When this greatest of all blessings comes, there is tremendous glory. His Presence is glorious, but the glory is not His Presence. The glory radiates as if it is a spiritually elevating light, but neither His Presence nor His glory are lights. With an earthly king there are trumpets sounded to announce his arrival. Hashem has no need for such aids. His glory announces His Presence.
His Presence has no form, no matter, but the soul instantly recognizes its Creator. There is not the slightest doubt as to the reality of what is happening when He, in His great kindness, reveals His Omnipresence to you. You experience the only holiness that ever exists. All that is holy on earth and in the heavens merely points to His holiness.
There are no words to describe the blessing of the revelation of His glory. Seeing His Presence is the fulfillment of life’s purpose. It is the very goal of creation.[ii] When this blessing comes, you see that G-d is actually here. That is the reality of it all. There is nothing else there to see, no music, no fireworks, no angels. G-d reveals that He is here. This is the vision.
There are tremendous spiritual blessings that come with this most precious vision. For instance, there is glory, awe, and love. But these words are merely an attempt to describe your reaction to the experience. They do not attempt to describe His Presence Itself. The Presence is just what it is called. He reveals that He is real, and that He is here.
The revelation ceases almost at once. It passes all too soon, but had it lasted, your soul would surely have returned to its Source. For a few moments after the revelation closes, you bask in the still-fresh glow. Perhaps the most overwhelming emotion at this time is a tremendous appreciation for His kindness at having let you experience this instant. Soon though, the entire experience fades into memory. Then the memory itself fades, and you once again long to be able to cleave to His Presence. As, King Dovid cried out, you again ask, “Oh L-rd, how long will you hide Your face from me?”[iii]
[i] Exodus 25:8
[ii] Ramchal, Mesillas Yesharim Chap 1
[iii] Psalms 13:2
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא