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Building His Home
by Rabbi Heschel Greenberg
The Torah contains a total of 613 commandments. One of the commands in this week’s parshah is particularly relevant as we approach the final Redemption: “Make for Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in them.”

These commandments are Divine dictates, not just suggestions or great ideas. Yet, when we explore these 613 commandments, as enumerated by Maimonides and others, we discover that a few hundred of them are impossible to observe because we are missing the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In these last days of exile there remain impediments for us to build the Temple.

How could it be that G-d would deny us the opportunity to perform so many of His commandments, particularly the one to build the Sanctuary?

Our Sages anticipated this question and answered that, while we must pray for the imminent coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, there are things we can and must do today as Divinely ordained substitutes for the Temple.

Among those “substitutes” are building and supporting synagogues, which the prophet Ezekiel (11:16) characterized as miniature Sanctuaries where G-d’s presence dwells. Indeed, the Talmud declares that when the Temple was destroyed, the Divine presence went with the Jewish people and “took up residence” in the synagogues of the Diaspora, particularly the main synagogue, headed by the leading Sage of his generation. Indeed, many of the laws that govern the respect we must accord the Holy Temple extend to synagogues too.

Moreover, according to the Talmud, all the synagogues we build in the Diaspora will become attached to the future Holy Temple. They are virtual extensions of the Holy Temple now and will become actual extensions with the imminent revelation of Moshiach.

The Rebbe extended this mandate to build synagogues as replacements for the Holy Temple to the next level, to include our own homes. Whenever we make our homes places whose residents pray, study Torah and engage in acts of loving-kindness, each home becomes a veritable miniature Holy Temple and will be transported to Israel in the Messianic Age.

Another way we can replicate the spiritual effects of the Holy Temple, even as we wait for the literal return of that edifice, is the study of the laws concerning the Holy Temple.

The Midrash Tanchuma recounts that G-d instructed the prophet Ezekiel to study the details of the construction of the Holy Temple. Ezekiel protested,

“We are now in exile, in the land of our enemy, and You tell me to notify the Jewish people about the dimensions of the Sanctuary… do they have the ability to do anything. Take them out of exile and then I shall inform them!”

G-d’s response to Ezekiel was:

“If My children are in exile shall the construction of My house cease? … Reading about its construction is as significant as actually building it. Go tell them to read the dimensions of the Sanctuary, and as a reward for reading about it I will consider it as if they were actually engaged in its construction.”

This Midrashic approach is based on the premise that Torah study transcends the constraints of time and space. The same spiritual energies that we generate during Passover, for example, can be elicited when we study the laws of Passover. Learning about a Mitzvah is the equivalent of doing the Mitzvah.

Based on the above, the Rebbe asserts that the way we fulfill our obligation to build the Holy Temple now is by learning about it.



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