Parashat Trumah 5778: Time to settle in?
For one book and a half, meaning all of Sefer Bereshit and half of Shmot, the Torah has been educating us about a divinity without form, embracing everything, present everywhere. Suddenly, this week, we are told that God needs a house, a Tabernacle! What was the problem with the infinite universe? If the Divine Being needs a home, then it is not all embracing anymore, it is not present everywhere anymore.
How did this happen? How did we go from free wanderers, that left the known and familiar to follow our ancestors in meeting God in the infinity of space and time, how did we turn into bourgeois real estate agents?
Would Abraham agree to this development? The only constant thing in his life was the wandering. Only one real estate he acquired: The Cave of Machpela to bury his wife and later himself. Is this connection between real estate and death coincidence? Maybe we just got tired of the journey, we despaired from infinity? Maybe this is how heroes fall?
Do you remember how did we feel when we were younger? How did we just wanted to be free, to see the world, to meet new people? How some of us saw this big world, the views, the nature and felt that really God is everywhere… and then we felt that we needed to go on, to make something out of our lives. So we went to university, we found a job, we found a partner, we got married, we got a mortgage, we had kids and we settled safely, even taking a role in the parents committee in school.
So… first it was the Tabernacle, the Mishkan, and it was still portable. It was young, as we were. When the clouds of Divine Presence would rise and leave, the people would pack with excitement and would follow in the journey, till the clouds would decide that it was time to stop again for a while. However, in the Book of Samuel already King David would ask permission from his prophet to transfer the Ark of Covenant from this portable tent to a permanent building.
He said he felt bad that he, a king of flesh and bones, lived in a palace and God, the King of Kings, continues to wander in a simple tent. It looks that David got old too. The prophet, Nathan, answered with excitement “Sure! Great idea! How didn’t we think about it before?” But in a dream that night Hashem would reprimand him. God said that the time was not ripe for that yet, but in due time… in due time not even God would be able to stop the process…
Is this the way of the world? That our body, the Tabernacle of our soul, that started soft, young and energetic, will become fixed and hard with time. At the end, as the portable Tabernacle and the permanent Temple, our body will as well be destroyed and divided into particles and atoms, and the clouds of glory, our eternal soul, will go back to the infinite space that from there it came and to that place it will always go back.
This people left Egypt. There, great pyramids were built, pyramids that are indeed giant tombs! Inside them the Pharaohs tried to ensure that their physical bodies would survive for eternity. That’s the meaning of the embalming; it is the ultimate fixation and freezing. It is the also the essence of idolatry, from there we left, so why again a Tabernacle?
And so a new phase started this week. There is a big promise on it, but a danger as well, the danger of getting too settled, becoming too fixed. And still… a person needs a home, needs protection, a place he can call his. It is not in vain that a mortgage is probably the biggest expense most people do in their lives.
And the Torah shows us in a verse the balance: “And Hashem spoke to Moses saying: Speak to the sons of Israel and tell them to take gifts, donations, from every person that his heart will be so inclined take my gifts… and make me a Sanctuary and I will live inside of them”.
This is the formula: The Sanctuary, the Tabernacle, the metaphor for our physical existence in the world, is an act of giving, out of free will, of generosity. Live your lives with generosity said the Lord. Live with the consciousness of freedom from slavery, from the world of Egypt.
And the most important: Remember! The objective of this great project called a home, a Tabernacle, the material life is one and one only: “and I will live inside you”. Live your physical lives in a way that I will live not in the buildings you will build, but inside of you. You are not building a house for me, but for you. I don’t need a house; you need a house in order to know me, to know that actually I live inside of you.