Return Again

Prior to being commanded with the building of the Mishkan (sanctuary), we are told to observe the Shabbos (Parshas Vayakheil, 35:2). This teaches us that although the sanctuary is important, it may not push the holiness of Shabbos aside. This means that all construction for the Mishkan must come to a complete halt on Shabbos (Rashi ibid, citing the Mechilta). Let us explore one reason for this.

There is a verse that says, "I (God) came to My garden, My sister O' bride" (Shir Hashirim, 5:1). The Midrash (Shir Hashirim Rabba 5:2, quoting Rebbi Menachem in the name of Rebbi Shimon in the name of Rebbi Yusna) points out that the verse does not say, "I came to 'a' garden" (gan), rather it says, "I came to 'My' garden" (Gani). The word “Gani’ refers to a wedding canopy which is called “Ganuni” in which God used to reside in.

This Midrash seems difficult to understand. What garden is being referred to? Also, who is the "sister" and who is the "bride?” Additionally, where is this wedding canopy that God used to reside in?

Before we share the rest of the Midrash, we must first become privy to a Talmudic teaching. Reish Lakish says that at the time of creation, God created seven firmaments or skies (Chagiga, chap. 2, "Ein Dorshin", pg. 12b). With this in mind, we can proceed.

The Midrash goes on to say that when Adam sinned, the Shechinah (Divine Presence), which had resided on Earth, moved away from Earth going up to the first sky. When Kayin sinned, the Shechinah moved further away to the second sky. When Enosh sinned, the Shechinah went up to the third sky. When the generation of the flood sinned, the Shechinah went up to the fourth sky. When the generation who built the tower of Bavel sinned, the Shechinah went up to the fifth sky. When the people of Sodom sinned, the Shechinah went up to the sixth sky. Finally, when the Egyptians in the time of Avraham sinned, the Shechinah went up to the seventh sky. In other words, God wanted very little to do with a sinful world and moved as far away as possible from our spiritually polluted planet.

However, there were seven righteous people who brought the Divine Presence back down to this world. Avraham brought the Divine Presence down from the seventh sky to the sixth. Yitzchak brought the Shechinah down to the fifth. Ya'akov brought the Shechinah down to the fourth. Levi brought the Shechinah down to the third. Kehas brought the Shechinah down to the second. Amram brought the Shechinah down to the first. Finally, Moshe brought the Shechinah down to Earth when he erected the Sanctuary (Parshas Naso, 7:1).

This is the meaning of the aforementioned verse, "I came back to My garden". The "garden" refers to the Mishkan. The Mishkan is considered to be the "sister" of Gan Eden, the "bride". At first, God's Divine Presence on Earth was found in Gan Eden, but after the Shechinah left this world on account of various sins, the Shechinah eventually returned to the Mishkan.

The Shvilei Pinchas points out that this shows us that the Sanctuary had the same status and holiness as Gan Eden.

Yonasan ben Uziel (Parshas Bereishis, 3:24) adds that when God kicked Adam out of Gan Eden, it was a paradigm example of the punishment fitting the crime. Since Adam's sin caused God's Divine Presence to be driven away from the Garden, Adam too, would have to be driven out of the Garden.

The Zohar Chaddash (Parshas Bereishis, Pg. 24b) makes another correlation between Gan Eden and the Mishkan. After Adam sinned and was expelled from the Garden, God placed the Keruvim (angel-like creatures) at the eastern side of the Garden to guard it from intruders who would try to get to the Tree of Life (Parshas Bereishis, 3:24). The Keruvim were already in the Garden prior to the sin. However, after the sin, God placed them on the eastern side of the Garden because that was where the entrance of Gan Eden was.

The Keruvim stood guard inside the Garden's entrance. If a person would enter the garden, the Keruvim would observe and scan him. If he was worthy of entering the Garden, they would allow him to enter in peace and leave in peace. But, if he was not worthy of entering Gan Eden, a fire would emanate from between the swords of the two Keruvim, burning the person to a crisp.

Parallel to these two Keruvim in Gan Eden were the two Keruvim in the Holy of Holies. Since the Holy of Holies has the same status as the Garden of Eden, the two Keruvim in the Holy of Holies guarded that place as well. When the Kohen Gadol would enter into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, the Keruvim observed and scanned him. If he was worthy of being there, they would allow him to enter in peace and exit in peace. But if he proved unworthy, a fire shot out from between both of the Keruvim, burning him to a crisp.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that it turns out that the Mishkan served as a tikkun and as an atonement for the sin of the Eitz Hada'as (the forbidden fruit of knowledge). This is because the sin of the Eitz Hada'as caused the Divine Presence to leave this world, whereas the Mishkan brought the Divine Presence back to this world.

However, it is not only the Mishkan which served as a tikkun to the sin of the Eitz Hada'as. Shabbos also serves as its tikkun. This is because Shabbos is one sixtieth of Olam Habbah (The World to Come. Berachos, chap. 9, "Haroeh", pg. 57b). Now, the Shechinah is most certainly found in Olam Habbah. Therefore, if Shabbos is one sixtieth of Olam Haba, it means that Shabbos carries with it Shechina as well.

Therefore, when Shabbos descends on to Earth, it brings the Divine Presence down, and the Shechinah is once again present in our world. In this way, Shabbos rectifies the ruination that was caused by the Eitz Hada'as. The Eitz Hada’as caused the Shechina to leave this world, but Shabbos brings the Shechina back to this world.

Now, the Gemara (Avoda Zara, chap. 1, “Lifnei Eideihen”, pg. 5a; Tehillim, 82:6-7) says that when the Jewish People accepted the Torah at Sinai, they reached the level of Adam Harishon before he sinned. As such, they were deserving of having the Shechinah return to Earth, just as there was Shechina on Earth prior to Adam’s sin.

However, shortly after accepting the Torah, the Jews stumbled with the Sin of the Eigel (Golden Calf). As a result, the Divine Presence, once again, distanced itself from this Earth and moved to the skies above. Therefore, the two sins of the Eitz Hada'as and the Eigel share a commonality. They both caused the Shechinah to be removed from this world.

But, after the sin of the Golden Calf, the Mishkan was built which brought the Shechinah back down to this world. By doing so, the Mishkan was not only a tikkun for the sin of the Eitz Hada'as, but it also served as a tikkun for the sin of the Golden Calf.

As we mentioned before, Shabbos also brings the Shechinah back to this world. As such, Shabbos not only rectifies the sin of the Eitz Hada'as but it also repairs the sin of the Golden Calf.

The Shvilei Pinchas points out that the tikkun which is generated through Shabbos is actually greater than the tikkun that is produced through the Mishkan. This is because although the Mishkan brings the Divine Presence back to this world, it is nevertheless contained within the four walls of the Mishkan. This means that the Shechinah is still absent from the rest of the world. However, on Shabbos, the Shechinah rests on the entire world.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that this explains why the construction of the Mishkan must come to a complete stop on Shabbos. It is because the Mishkan is weaker than Shabbos. The Mishkan only brought the Shechina back to the Mishkan, whereas Shabbos brings the Shechina to the entire planet. Therefore, the reason why the building of the Mishkan does not push away Shabbos is because, logically speaking, a weaker mitzvah (the Mishkan) may not push aside a stronger mitzvah (Shabbos).

Perhaps we could add another point. Earlier we mentioned that the Shechinah finally returned to Earth only after Moshe erected the Mishkan. Since it was Moshe who ultimately returned the Divine Presence to Earth, it is not arbitrary that Moshe was born in the month of Adar (Meggilah, chap. 1, "Meggilah Nikreis", pg.13b).

The Meor Einayim (Parshas Terumah; Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twersky, the first Chernobyler Rebbe, 1730-1797, Ukraine) says that the name “Adar” should be broken down into two parts, "Aleph Dar." The letter Aleph refers to Hashem Who is “Alupho Shel Olam (Chief in Command of the World). The next two letters of the word Adar spell "Dar" which means “to dwell.” Together, the word “Adar” means that the Alupho Shel Olam Dars (dwells) on Earth.

Based on this, perhaps we could suggest to say that Moshe was capable of bringing the Shechina back to Earth because of the fact that he was born in the month of Adar. Since Moshe was born in Adar, he had an even greater ability of tapping into that month’s energy which is to bring the Shechina back down to this world (Aleph – Dar).

We could add that the Gemara in Megillah (ibid) specifies that Moshe was born on the seventh of Adar. This too is meaningful. Perhaps the number seven refers to the seven firmaments that Hashem created. Moshe, whose birthday was on the seventh of Adar, was the one who brought the Shechina down to Earth from the seven firmaments.

This explains why the Zohar (Parshas Pekudei, pg. 221b) says that the Mishkan was never destroyed, and that it is currently hidden, all in the merit of Moshe Rabbenu. This is because Moshe blessed the people after they built the various pieces of the Mishkan (Parshas Pekudei, 39:43). Moshe’s blessing to them was, “May it be His will that blessing rests on the work of your hands.” That blessing has kept the Mishkan in-tact over the ages.

In addition to that blessing, Moshe also connected the lower Mishkan on Earth to the higher Mishkan above in heaven. This is hinted to in the verse, “Eileh Pikudei HaMishkan, Mishkan etc.” (these are the reckonings of the sanctuary, the sanctuary; Parshas Pekudei, 38:21). The repetition of the word “MIshkan” teaches us that there is a Mishkan below and a Mishkan above.

Moshe connected the Mishkan below to the Mishkan above by drawing the Shechina, which rests above, down to the Mishkan below. This was another reason why the Mishkan below to survived over the ages. It was because Moshe imbued the Mishkan below with the holiness of the Mishkan above.

Again, we see that Moshe, a Zayin Adar baby, succeeded in bringing Alupho Shel Olam all the way down from the seven skies to Dar with us in this world.

Don’t forget that Moshe was also responsible for the Jews observing Shabbos in Mitzrayim (Shemos Rabba, Parshas Shemos, 1:28), and Moshe commanded the Jews to observe Shabbos when they reached Mara (Rashi Parshas Beshalach, 15:25, citing Mechilta).

No matter how you slice it, Moshe was responsible for bringing the Shechina back into our world, whether through encouraging us to observe the Sabbath or because of the Mishkan which he erected.

We have the opportunity of following in his footsteps, at least to some degree. This will become apparent in our practical application for this week.

One practical exercise that we could implement in order to reinforce our homes with the status of a miniature Mishkan would be to improve our Shmiras Shabbos (Sabbath observance). At the Shabbos table, let us make it a habit to read at least one halachah related to Shmiras Shabbos. This will create an awareness about what we are allowed and not allowed to do on Shabbos.

We could also read a little bit from a sefer which talks about Oneg Shabbos, the holiness of Shabbos, and the happiness of Shabbos. In this way, we will be able to truly observe Shabbos in totality.

Because of the Coronavirus, public gatherings have shut down. Malls, movie theatres, beaches, stadiums, airports, and public transportation have come to a complete halt. Therefore, this Shabbos may very well be the first Shabbos in millennia where all Jews around the world will be observing it, at least in the public sector.

The Midrash (Shemos Rabba, Parshas Beshalach, 25:12) cites Rebbi Levi who says that if the Jewish people would observe just one Shabbos properly, Moshiach would come.

Who knows, this might just be the Shabbos that will trigger the Messianic era. After all, the Gemara (Rosh Hashana, chap. 1, “Arbaa Roshei Shanim”, pg. 11a-b; Rebbi Yehoshua) says that our ancestors were redeemed in the month of Nissan, and we will be redeemed in the month of Nissan.

On this Shabbos, we read about observing Shabbos. On this Shabbos, we bless the upcoming month of Nissan. Who knows, this Shabbos might just bring about the Geula this Nissan.

The Geula would end our current exile. I was thinking that this could be why Italy has been hit so hard with this Coronavirus. Maybe it is because Italy is the seat of its capitol, Rome. Rome began our current exile with the destruction of our second Beis Hamikdash.

Today, we are living at the tail end of the Roman Exile (Galus Edom). By hitting Italy so hard, maybe Hashem is sending us a message that the downfall of Rome is at hand.

These ideas are not being shared as definitive, but rather as speculation. The point is that we must try our best to improve our Avodas Hashem a little bit more. If we do and if we are found to be deserving in Hashem’s eyes, it might just tip the scales in our favor.

When the Jewish people observed their first Pesach Seder as a nation, they were in Mitzrayim. The verse tells us that each family celebrated the Pesach Seder in their own homes (Parshas Bo, 12:3). The way things are going, it appears that we will also be celebrating this year’s Seder as families, each family in its own home. It appears that there will be no communal seders with large numbers of people getting together for the Seder.

Right after that Pesach Seder in Mitzrayim, the Jews marched out of Egypt the following morning. That’s when the Exodus happened. We were finally redeemed.

If history is repeating itself, we could be marching to our final Geula this year as well.

It could be that our Parsha is preparing us for the Geula. Our Parshas talks about Shabbos and the Mishkan. One message could be that we can turn our homes into small Mishkans, even more so, by improving our Shabbos observance.

Since we are spending so much time at home anyway, we are being afforded with an opportunity of increasing the amount of Torah, tefilla, chesed, and chinuch in our homes. This spiritual growth in our homes helps to perfect our dwellings to become Mikdash Me’ats (miniature sanctuaries) par-excellence.

Maybe when our Mikdash Me’ats are perfected, we will be zocheh to the Mikdash HaGadol, the Beis Hamikdash, bimheira biyameinu, Amen!

So, may we all be blessed to further transform our homes into a Mikdash Mi-at, bringing even more of the Shechinah back down to Earth, and deserve to have children as holy as the Keruvim, who together with us will atone for the sins of the Eitz Hada'as and the Eigel, and thus celebrate the building of the third Beis Hamikdash on the Yom Shekulo Shabbos.