In this letter, we shall refer to the “Shechinah” – the Divine Presence. The Shechinah is the Divine Presence which seeks to dwell on this earth; in fact, the root meaning of “Shechinah” is “shochen” – to dwell.
The Tabernacle which was built in the Sinai wilderness and the Holy Temple which was built in Jerusalem served as sanctuaries for the Shechinah. The Tabernacle was known as the “Mishkan” – Dwelling Place – a reference to the dwelling of the Shechinah.
We discussed various sources which reveal that all human beings have roots in the site of Zion’s Temple, for this is the place where the human being was created. Why, however, was the human being created at the site of the Temple, the Sacred Sanctuary? I would like to suggest that the creation of the human being at the site of the Temple reveals that the human being has the potential to become a temple!
A source for this idea can be found in the following Divine statement:
They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell within them.” (Exodus 25:8)
“I may dwell” – I will cause My Shechinah to dwell. (Targum Onkelos – the ancient Aramaic translation of the Torah)
“Within them” – The noted Chassidic commentary, Maor V'Shemesh, written by Rabbi Klonimus Kalman Halevi Epstein, explains why the verse stresses that Hashem will dwell within the people. The Maor V'Shemesh states that through the sacred service of the Sanctuary, the Shechinah is to dwell within each member of the nation of Israel.
The Maor V'Shemesh cites the ancient teaching of our sages that the Shechinah is to dwell on this earth (Genesis Rabbah 19:7) This includes the human body, states the Maor V'Shemesh; thus, the words “I will dwell within them” come to teach us the following truth:
“Each and every member of Israel should view himself as if holiness is dwelling within his inner physical organs.”
This awareness, explains the Maor V'Shemesh, should inspire us to keep our bodies pure and holy through dedicating all of our limbs and organs to the service of Hashem; moreover, it should also inspire us to refrain from any activity which weakens this state of purity and holiness.
There is a related teaching by Rabbi Chaim Voloziner, a noted sage and disciple of the Vilna Gaon. He discusses how the human being is to become a Sanctuary for the Shechinah through the holistic observance of all the mitzvos. And he finds a reminder of this goal in the following Divine statement concerning the People of Israel:
“The Sanctuary of Hashem are they!” (Jeremiah 7:4).
The People of Israel are to realize that they are to become a Sanctuary of the Shechinah! Rabbi Chaim notes that this verse is in the spirit of the verse where Hashem says, “They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell within them” (Exodus 25:8). Rabbi Chaim points out that the verse does not refer to the Shechinah dwelling in the Sanctuary, but within the people – “within each and every one of them” (Nefesh HaChayim 1:4). With this statement, explains Rabbi Chaim, Hashem is saying:
“Do not think that My ultimate intention is the construction of the Sanctuary edifice; rather the entire purpose in desiring the Mishkan (the Dwelling Place) and its vessels is merely so that you should infer from it how to mold yourselves; namely that through your deeds you should be as desirable as the Mishkan and its vessels – all of you holy, fitting, and prepared to be receptacles for My Shechinah in a literal sense.” (Ibid)
When we engage in the holistic observance of all the mitzvos, we develop our “temple” potential. In this way, we remind all human beings of their “temple” potential, for the human being was created at the sacred site of the Temple in Zion.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
1. Regarding the creation of the human being at the site of the Temple, it is written:
“With an abounding love did the Holy One, blessed be He, love the first human being, as He created him in a pure and holy locality.” (Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 12)
2. The Talmud states the following teaching in the name of Rabbi Elazar: “A person should always view himself as if the Holy One is within his inner organs” (Taanis 11a-b).
3. We chant the following prayer on Monday and Thursday mornings which refers to the Shechinah and the “House of our Lives” – the Temple in Zion:
“May it be the will of our Father Who is in Heaven to establish the House of our Lives and to settle His Shechinah within us, speedily in our days – and let us say: Amen.”
We do not pray, “to settle His Shechinah within the “House of our Lives”; instead, we pray, “to settle His Shechinah within us!”