Where Will the Shechina Dwell?

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Terumah

What is the purpose of a synagogue? What is the purpose of our synagogue?

We are trying to fulfill a Mitzvah. ‘’Make for Me a Holy place,” a Mikdash – from the root Kodesh – “so that I may dwell in it.” “V’Chen Taasu – and continue to do so” … not only in the desert, not only when you enter Eretz Yisroel in Shilo, not only during the time of David and Solomon, not only during the time of Ezra, the Anshei Knesess Hagdola and the Maccabees, but forever, wherever, and whatever the situation may be. Make Me a holy place so that I will be able to live here on this Earth!

When King Solomon completed the building of his Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem he prayed, “may every prayer that is offered in this house be answered!” (Melachim 1 Chap. 8). Hashem responded, “I heard your prayer, I will enter and make the house that you have built holy. My eyes and My heart will be there forever.” The secret to having our prayers answered in the synagogue is by making sure that G-d is there, that His Shechina is present.

When we were driven from Yerushalayim the great Prophet spoke to us in the name of Hashem. Wherever you go, in whatever far-flung place you find yourself - build a Bais Hamikdash! (Yechezkel 11; 16) Rabbi Eliezer, who cried daily for the return to Jerusalem, proclaimed, “Yechezkel was talking about my Rebbe’s house of prayer – the house of Rav in Bavel!” (Megila 29a) He meant our Shul!

To be sure, our Shul serves many purposes. It is a gathering place for simchas and if need be funerals. It is a place where we come to hear intellectual presentations on topics ranging from the history of art and music in the Diaspora to the UN mission in Iraq. It is a place where we raise money for Israel, for Yeshivos, for our poor neighbors, for victims of terror. It is a place where Torah can be studied day and night. Of course, it is a house of prayer. Yet I ask myself daily and I ask you too – is it a Beis Hamikdash? Does the Shechina dwell here? Is it a place where G-d says, “My eyes and My heart are there forever”?

I’d like to share a Medrash with you. When G-d said make a Mikdash and I will dwell in it, Moshe began to tremble and he began to back away in fear.  He said, “Master of the Universe, even the Heavens and the place above the heavens can not contain You!” This does not make sense! G-d told him “Your right Moshe, the Heavens can’t contain Me; but the twenty beams in the North, the twenty beams in the South and eight in the West that you will build will contain the Presence of Hashem! I will be there! (Yalkut Shimoni 365)

Our hearts are intrigued by a world without the forces of gravity and atmospheric pressure. The Steipler Rav once wrote that man is a searching being –he searches for happiness, for culture for the meaning of life, for truth, for G-d, but he searches in all the wrong places. If you want to find G-d don’t go to the moon! Come here! Twenty beams in the North, twenty beams in the South and eight beams in the West. The Heavens can’t contain Me – but You can! And that is the purpose of our Shul – a place to contain the Shechina.

“It’s not in the Heavens doesn’t mean that you could host the Shechina in this world, it means it is the only place that we can host the Shechina.

Let’s ask ourselves some questions. Before our children or we walk down to the Chupa we give hours, if not years of thought as to what tune is the band going to play. We realize that this is a holy moment, a spiritual moment, and a moment of Shechina. How much thought are we giving to the tune that we use when we usher in Shabbos HaMalka? Lecho Dodi Likras Kalla!

If we were chosen to be part of a delegation to meet with the President of the United States of America on behalf of the State of Israel, we would spend hours preparing our remarks, rehearsing our presentation, making sure we don’t stumble or bore. How many hours do we spend preparing to greet the Shechina when the Sefer Torah walks around the Beis Knesess? Gadlu LaHashem Iti Uneromemoh Shmo Yachduv.

If we were hosting a celebrity in our home we would spend hours vacuuming, polishing, straightening out the furniture so the house should be exactly right for the experience. Is the Shul ready? Has every one of us done our part in making sure that this house is ready to greet the Shechina?

The Rambam at the very end of Hilchos Isurei Mizbeach comments: “When a person brings a Korban it should be brought from the best of his stock… Anything that is brought to the House of Hashem should be from the very best that one has. If you make a Synagogue it should be more beautiful than our home, if feed the poor it should be with the best of our food, if you clothe the naked it should be from you’re your most beautiful garments, if you donate your property it should be your best piece of property.”

We have to get a clearer perspective on our Shul. Rebbi Eliezer proclaimed “Zoo Beis Rav ShebeBavel! This is not an off Broadway show. This is the place that the Shechina will dwell. This is the place that Hashem’s eyes and heart are present. This is the place where our prayers will be answered.

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