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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
On the first day of Sukkos, Rabbi Shimshon Aharon Palonsky, the Rabbi of Teflik, arrived in shul and asked one of his congregants if he could use his esrog to make a blessing. The people in shul wondered why the Rabbi did not have an esrog of his own. Then, they heard the following story from the Rabbi. Early that morning, he had been woken by a child screaming from the neighbor's house. The Rabbi's wife went to see what had happened, and on her return she told her husband that the child had been playing with her stepfather's esrog, and it had fallen from her hands and become invalid. The mother, afraid of what her husband might do in his anger, had hit her daughter.
Since the husband was not at home at the time, the Rabbi ran over with his own esrog to the neighbor's wife, and he gave it as an unconditional present to the husband. He said that she should tell her husband that the Rabbi had been there, and had seen that the esrog was invalid, and in order that her husband would be able to fulfill the mitzva, the Rabbi had left him an esrog. In his rush, the Rabbi had forgotten to make a blessing on his esrog before he had given it away, and therefore he had had to borrow one from one of his congregants that morning.
The Rabbi later said, "All the riches in the world cannot compensate for the value of the contentment derived from saving a fellow Jew from anger. (OLAM CHESED YIBANEH, p. 213)
Rabbi Palonsky looked for every opportunity to rise towards spiritual perfection. This should also be our goal in marriage, rather that seeking our own physical benefit.
There is a verse which says, "Go out and see, the daughters of Zion." 1 [What will they see?] Sons that are distinguished by bris, haircuts, and tzitzis. [The midrash is alluding to the fact that the word Zion in Hebrew also means "distinguished." The verse is pointing out that Israel is distinguished from other nations by these three things.]
"Upon Shlomo the King," the king to whom peace belongs, "[see] the crown that his mother has crowned him with." 2Rabbi Yitzchak said, "We have searched in all the verses of the Tanach and we have not found that Bas Sheva had made a crown for her son, Shlomo. So it must be that the verse is referring to the Mishkan that had ornaments of blue wool, purple wool, and fine silk. (YALKUT 370)
What does the midrash mean by saying that Israel is distinguished from other nations by these three things: bris, haircuts, and tzitzis? Why does the midrash mention these three above other Jewish laws or customs? Why does the verse say, "Go out and see," which sounds as if there is something unusual or remarkable about these things? What is the meaning of "the king to whom peace belongs"? Why is the Mishkan called a crown?
Even though we do many mitzvos, there are certain mitzvos that clearly distinguish the Jewish people from other nations. First among these is bris, which makes a Jew's body different than a gentile's body. Second is the haircut, which also differentiates the Jew because he refrains from cutting off the pe'os. And the tzitzis is also distinctive, since it gives the Jew a special garment that cannot be found among the gentiles.
The idea of our being different has no hint of arrogance, but rather it is to remind us of our great responsibility to behave as would be expected of the people who were chosen to do G-d's will in the world. Because of the constant temptations all around us, we need reminders of who we are and what we must be careful to do. These three things that distinguish us call to our attention our obligations.
The phrase "Go out and see" refers to the visibility of these mitzvos, as opposed to other mitzvos that a person does, which afterwards are not perceivable anymore to an onlooker. But these mitzvos are special in that they are clearly visible and can be noticed by everyone even after they have been performed.
The phrase also refers to the pride that the Jewish people have about their Jewishness. We are not trying to hide our being Jewish, since we are not ashamed of it. The opposite is true; we are proud that we have been chosen for the holy task of serving Him. Therefore, just as a general wears his uniform and his medals proudly for all to see, so too we display our pride in being Jewish. We gladly do these mitzvos which show the world that we are Jewish.
"'Upon Shlomo the King,' the king to whom peace belongs." Shlomo was given permission to build the Temple, since in his reign there was peace in Israel. It was not a time full of strife or torn apart by wars. The Temple needs tranquillity, and Israel could not have concentrated its attention on the Temple while having the responsibilities of engaging an enemy. Only when Shlomo had lived a life of peace to such an extent that "to him peace belonged," was the building of the Temple feasible.
Another explanation of our Sages' words is that the verse is referring to G-d Himself. Hashem is "the King to Whom peace belongs." The word "peace" also refers to completeness. In Hebrew, "completeness" and "peace" have the same letters: 'shin', 1amed', 'mem'. This teaches us that there cannot be peace within a person's heart until he is a complete person. When a person has faults and sins, he is not at peace. There is a constant conflict going on inside him between his yetzer hara and his conscience. But G-d defines and controls peace and completeness. Therefore only G-d can be referred to as the One "to Whom peace belongs," since He is the only One Who is complete.
With this explanation we can now understand the rest of the midrash, which speaks of the Mishkan that was made as "an ornament" for Him. In other words, the Mishban was made for G-d by "His mother," which refers to the Jewish people. The Jewish people are referred to in the feminine form, since the name "knesses Yisrael" [congregation of Israel] is feminine. Israel is often referred to in the feminine form in Shir Ha-shirim, so the verse is alluding to the Mishkan as a crown made to honor G-d by the Jewish people.
The Temple is not only symbolic of national peace; it also is symbolic of the peace which is central to a Jewish marriage. Our Sages say that someone who makes a bride and groom happy is considered as if he rebuilds one of the ruins in Jerusalem. 3 What does this mean?
It means that there is a direct connection between marriage and rebuilding Jerusalem and the Temple. The construction of Jerusalem and the Temple represents spiritual perfection. When we ask in our prayers for the return of the Shechinah to the Temple in Zion, we are not simply asking for the physical structure. We are rather asking for a spiritual uplifting so great that it will justify the physical structure also to rise. That is the idea of building Zion: we wish to become complete and perfect holy beings worthy of Zion's rebuilding.
Building a Marriage is Like Building Zion
This is also the idea of marriage. When a person is alone he is not complete. G-d created man to be with a spouse, and only then can he be considered to be complete. Therefore our Sages say that when a person makes a bride and groom happy he is building Zion. Zion cannot be built until we reach spiritual perfection, and being married is one of ways of reaching spiritual perfection. When a person brings rejoicing to a wedding, it indicates that he appreciates the tremendous potential of marriage and realizes the high spiritual level a person can attain through this union.
The spiritual level that a person attains through marriage depends on how much he invests in the marriage. If he is always considerate to his spouse and constantly tries to be kind, then he is utilizing marriage in the optimal way. In marriage a person has countless opportunities to be kind, and he can grow spiritually through the chesed that he does. The Rabbi in the above story jumped at an opportunity to do chesed, in spite of the great cost involved. Even mundane tasks are really opportunities to do chesed and raise yourself to a higher spiritual level.
Interestingly, this means that our spouse's material needs are our own spiritual needs. When you give to your spouse, you are improving yourself. Superficially it seems as if you are profiting your spouse, but really you are giving yourself something spiritual. Only a married person can do so much chesed. When you live with another person, you have countless such opportunities. Every word you say to one another can be said in a manner of kindness, or the opposite. Keep in mind constantly, that the real purpose of your marriage is to give yourself many opportunities for doing chesed.
When we live according to these guidelines, we will find that our home is a sanctuary, and peace and love will fill it always.
1. Shir Ha-shirim 3:11
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network