Shabbat Observance Makes the Shechinah Dwell Among Us

One verse states, “I will dwell among the Children of Israel” (Shemot 29:45), and another states: “A cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Hashem filled the Sanctuary” (ibid. 40:34). We also read, “The cloud of Hashem was upon the Sanctuary by day, and fire was on it by night” (v.38). How could all these verses be fulfilled at the same time? A third verse comes to reconcile them: “They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them” (Shemot 25:8). The Sages have explained: “It is not said ‘in it,’ but ‘among them’ – within each of them” (Rabbeinu Ephraim ad loc.).

This is quite surprising: If Hashem wanted His Shechinah to dwell among the Children of Israel, not in the Sanctuary, then why did He command the Children of Israel to make Him a Sanctuary?

Concerning the verse, “from all His work which G-d created to make” (Bereshith 2:3), our Sages note (Pesikta Rabbati 6) that it does not say “made,” but rather “to make” – meaning that there is still more work. Lest we say that the creation of heaven and earth were not completed during the six days of Creation, the Sages (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 18) have said: Have heaven and earth ceased to exist? Of them it is written, “Thus said Hashem, ‘Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool’ ” (Isaiah 66:1). Nothing was created after the six days of Creation. It is also said, “Whatever has been is what will be, and whatever has been done is what will be done. There is nothing new beneath the sun” (Kohelet 1:9).

We have received a tradition from our Sages that heaven and earth were only created by the merit of the Torah, and they can only endure when the Children of Israel study Torah and observe mitzvot. Thus we read, “If not for My covenant, I would not have appointed days and nights, the decrees of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25). Here the Sages explain, “But for the Torah, heaven and earth would not endure” (Pesachim 68a). Hashem created the first man, giving him 248 limbs and 365 sinews, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot of the Torah, which comprise 248 positive and 365 negative commandments. When a person studies Torah and fulfills the 613 mitzvot, Scripture considers him to have become G-d’s partner in Creation. It is as if he has completed Creation. In fact before Jews studied Torah, the existence of heaven and earth was not guaranteed. The Gemara tells us, “The Holy One, blessed be He, stipulated with the works of Creation and said to it, ‘If Israel accepts the Torah, you shall endure. If not, I will return you to chaos and anarchy’ ” (Shabbat 88a). When Jews study Torah, heaven and earth have a solid basis for existence. Let us say that whatever was created during the six days of Creation was not completed in such a way that it could endure. When were they perfected in the most stable way possible? It is when the Children of Israel took upon themselves Torah and mitzvot. At that point heaven and earth were completed, which is why the verse states, “to make.” The term “make” always designates something that is created, as it is written: “The souls that they made in Haran” (Bereshith 12:5). Here the Sages explain, “If all the nations assembled to create one insect, they could not endow it with life. Yet you say, ‘The souls that they made in Haran!’ This refers, however, to converts. Then let it say, ‘that they had converted’ – why say, ‘that they had made’? This is to teach you that if one brings a proselyte close [to G-d], it is as if he has created him” (Bereshith Rabba 84:4).

To Complete Creation

The Gemara states that Betzalel knew how to combine the letters by which heaven and earth had been created (Berachot 55a). It is written, “He filled him [Betzalel] with G-d’s spirit, with wisdom, insight, and knowledge” (Shemot 35:31), as well as: “Hashem founded the earth with wisdom. He established the heavens with understanding. Through His knowledge, the depths were cleaved” (Mishlei 3:19-20). The Sages said in the Midrash, “With these three things, the world was created, for it says: ‘Hashem founded the earth with wisdom. He established the heavens with understanding. Through His knowledge, the depths were cleaved’ ” (Shemot Rabba 48:4). The Sanctuary was made by these three things as well, as it is written: “I have filled him with the spirit of G-d in wisdom, insight, and knowledge” (Shemot 31:3). Therefore let us say that G-d only commanded the Children of Israel to build the Sanctuary so they could remember that they must study Torah and fulfill mitzvot in order to sustain the world. Because they would constantly see the Sanctuary, they would make sure to study Torah in order to sustain the world, and to perfect the creation of the six days.

The Sages tell us, “They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them” – it is not said “in it,” but “among them” – teaching us that since the Children of Israel built the Sanctuary and learned from it to observe Torah and mitzvot, they would fulfill their role as a dwelling place for the Shechinah. It will return to dwell in them, just as it did before, during the six days of Creation.

This is why it says at the beginning of this week’s parsha, “Let them take an offering for Me” (Shemot 25:2), to which the Sages add: “For Me, in My Name” (Tanchuma, Terumah 1). Now can anyone think that someone would bring a contribution to the Sanctuary without it being for Hashem? For whom else could it be? This teaches us, however, that neither the world nor the Sanctuary can endure unless man directs all his deeds towards Hashem. The word terumah is formed by the letters of Torah and the letter mem (numerical value: 40), alluding to the giving of the Torah in 40 days. It is part of Torah not to become proud, all while having the intention of growing through Torah. When we act in this way, we make the Shechinah dwell in us.


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