Shabbat candles: 5:23 p.m.
Torah: Exodus 25:1- 27:19
Haftarah: I Kings 5:26-6:13
“They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them” [Exodus 25:8].
“This Temple that you build… if you follow My decrees… I shall dwell among the Children of Israel and I shall not forsake My people Israel” [I Kings 6:11, haftarah].
How secure should we feel about the future of the State of Israel? Certainly, our future is far more secure in Israel than in any diaspora community. If there is anything to be learned from history, it is the precariousness of Jewish life in any “host” country, no matter how long we enjoy relative freedom and prosperity within their borders. Witness Babylon, Spain and Germany; countries where Jews experienced “golden ages,” only to find that the gold could turn into the ashes of crematoria under a cruel tyrant who “did not remember Joseph.”
I believe and insist on proclaiming in the “Prayer for the State of Israel” recited every Sabbath and Festival — that this is the “beginning of the sprouting of our redemption.” There are many facts which would assuredly buttress this pronouncement: our phoenix-like return to Israel after almost 2,000 years of exile; our miraculous victories on the battlefield; the ingathering of the exiles from the four corners of the globe; the phenomenal growth of our agriculture and economy; and many countries and many Christian leaders standing squarely in our corner, an amazing sea-change after the last 2,000 years of persecution and enmity.
Indeed, I am thrilled every time I read Chief Rabbi Yitzchak HaLevy Herzog’s response to a delegation of prominent American Rabbis, who came to the New York airport to attempt to dissuade the great Torah luminary from boarding a plane to return to Israel after the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1947 [when it looked as is if the State of Israel would die before it was born]. He assured them that they need not worry: “Our Bible only mentions two destructions.” [In Behukotai, Leviticus, and in Ki Tavo, Deuteronomy]. “This third Commonwealth must lead us to the days of the Messiah and will never be destroyed.”
Nevertheless, “the beginning of the sprouting of redemption” is a rather modest declaration. Sprouts do not always develop to fruition, other variables can interfere. And although the classical commentaries would seem to take our verse, “They shall make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them” as a promise and a guarantee, we dare not forget that the desert Sanctuary was only temporary, the two Holy Temples were destroyed, and we were forced into exile after the demise of each of the two commonwealths.
Yes, our prophets promised eventual return, repentance and even world redemption, but these are clearly dependent upon our repentance, as Maimonides rules in his Mishneh Torah [Kings 11:12]. [Take note once again of our Biblical verse regarding the Sanctuary, it does not say “so I may dwell in it,” but rather “so that I may dwell among them.” each and every one of them.]
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch links our verse to a verse sung by the Israelites in the Song of the Reed Sea; “This is my God and I shall become like His house.” My being and my body must be vehicles to express His unconditional love, His compassion, His loving-kindness and His Truth.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that just as the skins and the walls of the sanctuary housed the presence of the Divine, so must our human skin and our mortal bodies manifest God’s will in our every word, in our every action. God’s sanctuary will endure only as long as we — His people — express his message of compassionate righteousness and moral justice; “I shall make you a great nation, and through you must be blessed all the nations of the earth” [Genesis 12:3].
Hence in the Prophetic reading cited above, King Solomon is clearly told by God that the existence of the Temple is dependent upon the Israelites’ fealty to His words. The Midrash Rabbah to the Biblical words “And I shall dwell among them” links our verse to the prophecy of Jeremiah, “Mend your ways and your deeds and I will cause you to dwell in this palace” [Jeremiah 7:3].
The prophet of the destruction of the First Temple warns that we dare not listen to the lying words of those who claim that since the Temple is God’s, He will never destroy it. They are false prophets! The Jews must become the expression of God’s compassion for all the weaker vessels and then, only then, will our presence in the Temple and in the land endure.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is the chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone and chief rabbi of Efrat.