Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Terumah 76 - Connection and the Shecinah= Divine Presence

Our Parasha-portion begins the instructions for the building of the Mishkan – Tabernacle and Sanctuary in the desert . The Mishkan was  a resting place for God's presence= שכינה. The  Mishkan was the climax of nation  building  and a symbol of a complete redemption from Egypt. The Mishkan was the  place where  God's revelation to his people at Mount  Sinai was to be reconstructed on a daily basis and it would be a place where people would come to be spiritually uplifted and feel the shechinah ,  God's presence- שכינה.  Although God is everywhere, because of the sin of the Golden calf, the nation lost in spiritual stature, so a special place was needed where people could feel God's presence  rest upon them. The temples in Jerusalem replaced the Mishkan – tabernacle in the desert. After the destruction of the temples, the houses of worship and learning became the ' מקדש מעט,' – miniature sanctuaries,  and a resting place for God's presence.

The resting place for the divine presence – השכינה  is not really a building or a tent, the temple or a mishkan.  The verse says – ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם – בתוכו לא נאמר אלא בתוכם'  and you (plural) shall make a Sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them. The commentators note that it is not written I will dwell in it, but the divine presence will dwell among them, it will rest upon each and every individual. In Psalm 78:60 - תהילים עח: סמשכן שלו אהל שכן באדם - 'The tabernacle of Shiloh where He-God dwelled among men ' expresses the same idea that God has no desire to rest his divine spirit on an inanimate construction. The tabernacle is merely a means to channel God's spirit and presence into the midst of human life. It is people who give value and kedusha- holiness to the mishkan – tabernacle and invite God into the mishkan, by their holy thoughts, prayers, learning  and the way they conduct themselves - intrinsically motivated to be of service to man and the community and to serve God. And it is man's sins and immoral behavior that drives the divine presence – שכינה   from the temple or sanctuary.

The Talmud teaches that one does not need a particular building for the divine presence to rest. If a man and a woman, relate to each other as true Torah  husbands and wives should relate, they merit that the Shechinah – divine presence will rest upon them. True love is not dependent on something external and it is an expression of giving and connection between the inner souls and divine sparks of the couple. When people connect to each other on a deep level of the soul, being  totally involved in giving and not concerned about the ' self', God becomes a partner in their endeavors. 

The Talmud speaks of the divine presence being with people who study the Torah and Talmud together in a collaborative way. When one has a love of learning and is enjoying learning together with others , one becomes totally involved in the process of learning and loses oneself ,being  totally connected to the Divine Torah and connected on the most deep level , to one's   inner being  and the  souls of  one's learning partners. Once there is connection between the divine elements of each person, God joins in and rests his presence upon them.

The verse –' you shall make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them ' can also be read as God dwelling among the people while they are in the process of contributing  to the building of the mishkan .  People gave in an altruistic way and totally lost themselves in the process of collaborating with others in their  national and religious duty of building the mishkan.  They operated in a way that they were able to  connect  to their inner-beings and the souls of others , thus making space for God's presence to rest upon them.

As parents and teachers we want to interact , bond and connect with children on a deeper level , on the level of the soul.  We can achieve this if the child feels self-determined, endorsing his actions at the highest level of reflection. He feels self-directed, autonomous, and competent in what he does. He feels a sense of belonging and connection  to his family, school and  community ,  and being supported by caregivers and friends. It is important that we are not judgmental and help the child focus on what he is doing or  learning and not how he is doing and learning. The child should also have a sense of purpose , feel part of a bigger mission to serve God and be of service to man , and  that they are making a contribution and impact on the lives of others. When we learn Torah with our children in a non-judgmental way , we can truly connect with them on this deep level of the soul and engage in authentic learning. When we relate to our kids on this deep level , we are dealing with an authentic child. In this way we get to really know the real child and help him access all his strengths and connect with his inner core values.

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