Reading this week’s parsha, we may have a question worthy of Moshe Rabbeinu himself: How can we, flesh and blood human beings, create a physical location which is a worthy residence for Hashem’s Divine Presence? Can a mere mortal build a place in this corporeal world for the Almighty, the Infinite? Yet, out of love for our Creator, each of us dreams of the day when the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt and the presence of Hashem will once again rest amongst us.
While this is not easy, Chazal explain that Betzalel was taught how to apply the secrets of Creation and the mystical permutations of Hashem’s holy Names in order to fashion the Mishkan and its vessels. Surprisingly, we can do the same! We can bring Hashem’s Divine Presence into this world – and we can do it individually; it does not require all of Klal Yisrael to make it happen, though we hope everyone will do the same.
The Gemara in Maseches Sotah 17a points out that the difference between the Hebrew spelling of “man” and “woman” (ish and isha) is just two letters: the yud of the ish and the heh of the isha. These two letters make up one of Hashem’s names. Rabi Akiva taught: “When there is peace and harmony between a man and his wife, then the presence of Hashem rests between them. However, if one removes Hashem’s name from ish and isha, what remains is alef, shin: aish, which is fire.”
This Gemara clearly shows us that our home is literally the resting place of Hashem, our house is a Mishkan! The word Mishkan comes from the root shachen (shin, chet, nun), meaning to rest upon or dwell. The Shechina is the Presence of Hashem that can be sensed in this world. And it is brought to us through shalom, through peace.
The Gemara tells of a couple that argued every erev Shabbos. A Tanna who lived near them attempted to help. One erev Shabbos during an argument they heard a knock at the door. The husband answered and was shocked to see the saintly rav.
“Come in, please, what can I do for the Rav?” the husband calmly said. The Rav came in and sat down. The wife pleasantly brought out a drink and a piece of cake. The Rav engaged the husband in a conversation about Shabbos; the wife quietly went about her preparations so as not to disturb them. The conversation continued even as the hour grew late. A few minutes before Shabbos the Rav got up, thanked his hosts and left. The husband and wife looked at each other in shock; the house was ready and not a critical word had been uttered – it was the calmest Friday ever in their house!
The next week, though, the pressure of erev Shabbos began to build. Once again there was a knock on the door: the Rav had come to visit. And the third week the episode repeated itself. This time, though, there was more. As the Tanna was leaving they heard a pitiful screech: “Woe to me! He chased me away three times!” They immediately understood that their domestic acrimony and fighting had brought the yetzer hara itself into their house each week. The Satan waits for opportunities to undo kedusha, particularly on erev Shabbos, when the potential to bring the Shechina into the world is great.
People are very careful about who and what they bring into their home. We are meticulous about our guests, our kids’ guests, our food and magazines and games…and we should be! So how much on guard must we be with the worst possible influence: the yetzer hara, who is the Satan! Strife in the home makes it a welcome place for him. However, harmony in the home opens up the house for Hashem’s Shechina. The choice is pretty obvious.
Yet, in reality it’s not easy to create that harmony – sometimes it seems like it might be easier to learn the Kabbalistic permutations of Hashem’s name – all because we are selfish and focus on our needs and wants, rather than on those around us.
Isn’t it ironic? To build a Mishkan, you have to make sacrifices! The Mishkan was built through nidvas lev, the giving of our hearts, a concept mentioned three times in connection with the beginning of our parsha (Vayakhel 35:21-3). R` Chaim Shmulevitz, zt”l (late Rosh Yeshiva of Mir Yerushalayim) explains it as “they gave their hearts.”
Giving your heart is how the Mishkan, the resting place for Hashem’s Shechina was built, and it is how we can turn our homes into a Mishkan as well. Shalom bayis requires us to give our heart; give up our personal desires, our impatience, our “rights” (next time you’re ready to sling-a-zinger at your spouse, remember: you have the right to remain SILENT!). Don’t feel bad, either. Think of it as your personal donation to the third Beis HaMikdash; the one being built in your living room!
And one more tip we can take from our parsha: when do you know you’ve given enough? When you hear those to whom you’re giving say that you’ve given enough and more! (See perek 36, pesukim 4-7). Bnei Yisroel gave and gave and gave…and so should we.
That’s the formula for a successful marriage and the way to create a Mishkan in our homes.
About the Author: Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is Associate Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Passaic Torah Institute, Passaic, NJ.
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