If You Build It He May Come. If You Attend It, He Won't Leave
God begins Parshat Terumah by instituting the first fund-raiser. The Holy One details exactly which materials Moshe should solicit. Once the details are complete, The Holy One concludes the pitch with a charge to all of Israel.
"Let them make me a Holy-Shrine (a Sanctuary) that I may dwell amidst them. According to all that I grant you to see, the building-pattern of the Dwelling and the building-pattern of all its implements, thus are you to make it."
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1. First God requires a Holy-Shrine or a Sanctuary, and then the Holy One refers to the Shrine as a "Dwelling." What does this change of language imply?
2. The first verse may be divided into four sections: "Let them make me" "a Holy-Shrine", "that I may dwell" "amongst them." Each one emphasizes a different aspect of the human relationship to the Divine. What four components comprise our relationship with the Holy One?
Many rabbinic commentators have grappled with this verse which is the most popular verse to interpret in this Parsha. One question often asked is why the site is called a Holy-Shrine or a Mikdash when it is referred to in the next verse as a Dwelling, a Mishkan. Is a Mikdash a synonym for Mishkan, or are they referring to two different things?
If they are synonymous then the Holy-Shrine, the Mikdash, defines another aspect of the Dwelling, the Mishkan, but if we assume that the words are not synonymous, what does the commandment, "Let them make me a Holy-Shrine (a Sanctuary) that I may dwell amidst them" come to teach us?
One answer is found in the Zohar:
Zohar, Bamidbar 126a
Eleazar began a discourse on the verse: "Why, when I came, was no one there?..." (Isaiah 50:2). 'How beloved', he said, 'are Israel before the Holy One, in that wherever they dwell the Holy One is found among them, for the Holy One never withdraws His love from them.
We find it written: "And let them make me a Mikdash Holy-Shrine, that I may dwell amidst them" (Exodus 25:8). That is, ANY HOLY-SHRINE whatever, so any Synagogue, wherever situated, is called a Mikdash, a Holy-Shrine, and it is to the synagogue the Shekhinah hastens before the worshippers assemble.
The Zohar says we are commanded to build places in which the Holy One may dwell.
This verse is not only referring to the tabernacle in the desert, but also requires us to build sanctuaries for the Holy One wherever Jews are to be found. Building the Holy Shrine ensures the presence of the Holy One when worshippers appear. But the Holy One expects the community not to keep Him waiting, for the verse continues "that I may dwell amidst them." The Zohar continues, announcing that it is important that a quorum of worshippers be present at the appointed time so that He will not be able to say, "Why, when I came, was no one there?" (Isaiah 50:2) The Holy One is not present to be the custodian of an empty building when time for worship has arrived.
A building poorly attended or neglected by the community will ultimately be abandoned by the Holy One. In other words, if you build it the Holy One will come, but if you leave it so will He.