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Trumah(Exodus 25:1-27:19)

In the Synagogue

The command to build the tabernacle (the precursor to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem) is given in a slightly strange way: "Make for me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within you." It would seem to make more sense to say, "Make for me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within it." This small distinction draws our attention to an important issue.

The Sages explain: the Temple is not a glorified granny flat. It is not a home away from home for God. Obviously so. God does not need us to build Him a place to reside in this world; He already resides everywhere. On a deeper level, though, the Torah is saying that the Temple is not somewhere where we can put God out of the way. It would be all too easy to build a Temple, in order that God can reside within it. It would be very convenient to compartmentalize God. Let me put Him in the Temple and there I will worship Him, speak to Him, and have a relationship with Him. But in the rest of my life, I will not.

I am always amazed that it has become the norm for Jewish men to cover their heads in a synagogue. Why is God any more inside a synagogue than He is on the street? Do we not believe in an infinite God Who is everywhere? So why the distinction between synagogue and elsewhere? I think that the reason might be that if we can confine God to the synagogue, then outside the synagogue, we can live our lives however we want. If we define a place where God is, by so doing, we also define a place where God isn't. And that's very convenient.

The Torah is saying that to make a Temple is not to take God out of our day to day lives, but to help bring Him in. The purpose of a Temple is that God should dwell within you. If we come to perceive Him as dwelling within it, we are missing the point.

It is the role of a synagogue to inspire us to a relationship with God. It is our role to allow that inspiration to lift us, even after we have returned to our day-to-day lives. If a synagogue does not inspire us, there is a problem with the synagogue. But if the inspiration lasts only as long as we are in the building, there is a problem with us.

Published: February 21, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Anonymous, February 5, 2014 1:06 PM

Excellent!

This article is excellent. Thank you so much for posting it!

(3) Tzipporah, February 5, 2011 12:43 AM

Covering the head in synagogue (to Harry)

I am just about sure that Rabbi Rosenblatt was making the comparison that Jewish men should be wearing a kippah everywhere through their day because G-d is everywhere (not just in shul).

(2) Anonymous, February 4, 2011 10:22 PM

I WISH VERY MUCH THAT THE TALKING THAT TAKES PLACE IN SHUL WHEN WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE IN PRAYER STOPS. HOW USELESS TO COME TO SHUL AND NOT SPEND THE TIME LISTENING AND LEARNING AND THANKING HASHEM FOR EVERYTHING INCLUDING SHUL.

(1) Harry, January 31, 2011 3:30 PM

Covering the Head in Synagogue

Maybe the reason some of us cover our heads in synagogue is to avoid the tsuris or local consequences of not having one on in synagogue. "Make for Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell within you." Maybe some of us consider the "Sanctuary" a perception. It is everywhere I see. Then I pray that I find God within me. I know He is there. Some of us are soemtimes too busy to make this earth, this moment, a Sanctuary. Have a nice day.

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