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Parashat Terumah, Exodus 25:1-27:19

Becoming a Mishkan

Rabbi Isaac S. Roussel, Congregation Zera Avraham, Ann Arbor, MI

In Christian circles you often hear people talking about inviting Jesus into your heart, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and God living within us. Many years ago there was a booklet entitled “My Heart, Christ’s Home” which drew an analogy between a house and our inner lives. It likened the study to what we expose ourselves to in reading, the kitchen to the food that we eat, the workshop to our actions, and the recreation room to the kinds of entertainment we consume.

We don’t expect to hear such language in Judaism, but we actually do! This is especially true in Hasidut. In Exodus 25:8 we read:

וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתֹוכָֽם׃

They are to make me a sanctuary, so that I may live among them.

The Hasidic rabbis assert that this commandment applies to each and every person. They translate the last word, be-to-cham, as “in them” instead of “among them.” In other words, we are to make ourselves into a mishkan, a dwelling place for the Shekinah. The rabbis go even further and state that this is the purpose of Creation, for us to become holy sanctuaries.

After the splitting of the Red Sea the people say, “This is my God and I will praise him.” The word used for “praise” is from the Hebrew root nun-vav-hey which can mean not only praise, but also adorn or beautify. Both Rashi and Ibn Ezra note that this verse could be read as, “This is my God and I will make a beautiful home for him.” The Onkelos Aramaic Targum reflects this translation as well; it says “This is my God and I will build a sanctuary for him.”

The Kotzker Rebbe states that this means each and every Jew should make themselves a sanctuary. The Kabbalistic text Reshit Hochmah says:

When a person reflects on this idea, the soul will be impassioned with love and ask itself, Can I, made from dust and ashes, be worthy? God wants to dwell in me? It is only fitting for me to make a beautiful home for Him, in my heart.

When Israel was building the Mishkan, God instructed them in Exodus 25:2 to bring him a donation as their hearts moved them. It comes from our hearts! The Lubavitcher Rebbe says that these gifts take the form of Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Hasadim (study, prayer, and good deeds). In other words, we build a home for Hashem in our hearts through study, prayer, and good deeds.

This idea is reflected in the teachings in the Besorah. 

Ephesians 3 says, “I pray that from the treasures of his glory he will empower you with inner strength by his Spirit, so that the Messiah may live in your hearts.”

In Yochanan 14 Yeshua says, “If someone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

He also declares in Revelation 3, “Here, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me.”

The Kotzker Rebbe asks, why does the Shema tell us to put words of Torah on our hearts; why not in our hearts? He answers his own question by stating that our hearts are not always open, but if we heap words of Torah upon our hearts, when they do open, the words will seep in.

We Messianic Jews recognize Messiah Yeshua as the Living Torah. Heaping words of Torah upon our hearts, is heaping loads of Yeshua on our hearts!

Another Hasidic saying is, “The greatest synagogue is the synagogue of the heart.”

May we build a beautiful home for Hashem in our hearts through study, prayer, and good deeds.

May we invite our Father and his Son into our lives, and let them help clean up our “rooms.”

May we make our hearts into glorious and beautiful shuls.

Then we will be a mishkan, a sanctuary, a dwelling place for Hashem in this world


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