“V’asu li mikdash … they shall make a sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them….” (Shemos 25:8) We don’t have it any more! We don’t have the Aron, the Shulchan, the Menorah, the Mizbeach. We don’t have the Mishkan and the Chatzair.
But what difference does it make? Aren’t we functioning all right? I mean, we get up in the morning and go to work. We raise families and see a new generation. The world goes on. What difference does it really make if we have a Mishkan in our midst?
Oy! We are so bereft! We have nothing! Nothing! Nothing at all without the Mishkan!
“Al naharos Bavel … by the Rivers of Bavel, there we sat and also wept when we remembered Tzion. On the willows within it we hung our lyres. There our captors requested words of song … with our lyres playing joyous music … ‘How can we sing the song of Hashem upon the alien’s soil?’ If I forget you, O Yerushalayim, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue adhere to my palate if I fail to recall you, if I fail to elevate Yerushalayim above my foremost joy.” (Tehillim 137)
I was raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Those who have read my book, From Central Park to Sinai, will be familiar with the story. I lived among Jews who intentionally distanced themselves from our Heritage of Glory. By the time my generation was born, these outwardly-successful Jewish-Americans did not even remember where they came from, except that they exhibited severe embarrassment at the thought that they might be connected with the strange and isolated nation which had so recently emerged from the ghetto.
We were taught to excel in the country called America and to forget that we came from those who had stood at Har Sinai and heard the Voice of the Al-Mighty. We accepted without question Darwin’s theory and literally believed that we came from monkeys. Our gods were “the elimination of social injustice,” the “peace movement” and “save the earth.” There was a new morality and new music and new ways of dressing. The motto was “just do it.” The heroes of the new generation were sports and movie stars.
But I was different. Something bothered me about the world in which I was living. Then Hashem sent me a partner in life who shared my perception, and together we started on a quest for a life which was founded on Reality. We knew it had to exist. We felt in our souls that that we had come from another place, another time, another world.
To this day, our former classmates – in the “sophisticated,” private high school where we met – think we are strange. Most of them are Jewish, but they have been taught to abhor and flee the voice of Torah which calls, from somewhere deep within them, “Come Home, my Children. Come back to Me!” They run and hide, and, when they see us, they turn their faces and pretend we don’t exist. Our presence disturbs them.
My friends, there once was a Mishkan. There once was an Aron, a Shulchan and Menorah, a Mizbeach, a Chatzair. There once was a Kohain Gadol dressed in shining begadim. There once was a Moshe Rabbeinu who spoke to Hashem. “How majestic was the Kohain Gadol as he left the Holy of Holies in peace, without injury. … Fortunate is the eye that saw our Tent ….” (Yom Kippur Mussaf)
Do we have anything today? Do we have anything at all without the Mishkan? Do we have light or wisdom without the Menorah? Was it the Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l who said, “I wouldn’t know that two plus two is four unless I had learned it from Chazal.”
When we were in high school, living among our assimilated Jewish brethren, we were sure we knew the truth. We were sure that our “social agenda” was correct. The non-Jewish writer Paul Johnson defined “modern times” based on the theory of relativity, but he extended the meaning beyond physics. In other words, in our “modern times” there is no absolute right or wrong; there is no morality; there are no standards; everything is relative.
No, my friends, that’s not how it is. There is a G-d Who created this world and gave us a Torah. There are absolute standards. There is right and wrong and we do not decide which is which. We have tried to push Hashem out of His own world by refusing to believe in Him. We have tried to exile the Creator of the universe!
It will not work. “Ad kan … up to here and no more.” Just as in the days of Noach, just as in Mitzraim, there comes a point at which evil self-destructs, because the essence of evil is nothingness, and to nothingness it will return. “When the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them till eternity.” (Tehillim 92)
The Or Hachaim asks why the Torah first states “they shall make a Mikdash for Me” and then, in the following possuk, refers to “the Mishkan.” (Shemos 25:8-9) Why does the language change? The Mishkan was built in the Midbar, for that generation, but the Mikdash is forever, “a positive mitzvah encompassing all periods [of history] … whether in the wilderness or when they enter the Land of Israel, for all future generations,” up to the end of time!
“The word of Hashem came to Shlomo, saying, ‘This Temple that you build: if you follow My decrees, perform My statutes and observe all My commandments to follow them, then I shall uphold My word with you that I spoke to Dovid your father. I shall dwell among the Children of Israel and I shall not forsake My people Israel.” (Haftaras Teruma)