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The Core Purpose

Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10 )

by Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

After giving detailed instructions of the procedure for the inauguration of the Mishkan and the bringing of the Korban Tamid, the daily offering, the verses state: "And I will dwell in the midst of Bnei Yisrael, and I will be for them a Lord. And they will know that I am Hashem their Lord who took them out from the Land of Egypt [in order] to dwell in their midst; I am Hashem their Lord (Shmot 29:45-46)."

The verses clearly indicate that the whole purpose of redemption from Egypt and the subsequent giving of the Torah is that the Shechina, God's presence, should dwell in our midst - that we should live in such a way that our life is filled with the holiness of Godliness.

It is obvious from the verse that the focal point of dwelling of the Shechina is of course the Mishkan (and, later, the Beis Ha'Mikdash, the Holy Temple). However, our Sages make it clear that every Jewish home is a Mikdash Me'at, a miniature sanctuary. In Maseches Brachos (6b), the Gemara says that one who gladdens a groom on his wedding day is as if he has rebuilt one of the destroyed places of Jerusalem.

Similarly, the Gemara in Maseches Sotah (17a) says that if a husband and wife live together in a meritorious manner (i.e. living a Torah life together in peace and harmony) the Shechina dwells in their midst.

In as much as achieving a life of holiness and Godliness is the central purpose of our covenant with Hashem, we must expend great effort to ensure that we are in fact achieving that goal.

At the end of the Shema we read, "In order that you remember and uphold all of My mitzvos and you will be holy unto your Lord (Bamidbar 15:40)." We see, then, that the key to achieving this state of holiness is by keeping the mitzvos. Through the study and fulfillment of the Torah, we achieve that purpose and meaning for which we entered into the covenant with Hashem.

It is crucial to always bear in mind, though, the chastising words of the prophet, "And Hashem said, '...this nation approaches [Me] with its mouth, and with its lips it honors Me, but its heart it has distanced from Me, and their fear of Me is a matter of rote' (Yeshaya 29:13)."

In other words, performing the mitzvos by rote - although infinitely preferable to not at all - is not sufficient. Rather, the requirement is "to worship Him with all of your heart and all of your soul (Devarim 11:13)."

Learning Torah and doing mitzvos is not a matter of perfunctory performance of religious rituals; rather it is a matter of engaging in a real and true relationship with the Almighty. There is a verse in Shir Ha'Shirim (3:11) that says, "Go out and see, oh daughters of Tziyon, the king Shlomo (in this context, a reference to Hashem) [adorned] in the crown with which His mother crowned Him on the day of His wedding and on the day of the gladness of His heart." The Gemara in Maseches Taanis (26b) explains that "the day of his wedding" is referring to the day that Hashem gave us the Torah at Har Sinai. So, we see that the entering into the covenant of Torah between Hashem and the Jewish People was like the relationship that is formed between husband and wife through the bonds of marriage.

A husband must care for and be considerate of his wife, and a wife must also care for and be considerate of her husband. Similarly, if the marriage is to succeed, each one has certain responsibilities and obligations toward the other. Certainly, if the most basic and critical of these concrete actions are not carried out, the marriage is doomed to failure. However, it is just as clear that these obligations must not be carried out merely as a matter of rote; for if they are, what occurs is a nullification of the inner-core of the marriage-relationship, and what is left is merely the empty, outer shell which becomes akin to a business partnership. This "business partnership" may be very beneficial in a practical sense, but a true marriage-relationship it is not.

So too when it comes to our covenant of Torah with Hashem: it is a matter of forging a real relationship with our Creator. As such, it requires complete and ongoing involvement of our deepest emotions. The Zohar says, "The Merciful One desires the [involvement of the] heart." The goal is to learn Torah and fulfill its mitzvos with an ongoing sense of ecstasy of love that we have for the Creator who constantly showers us with His endless beneficence and constantly provides us with opportunities through His Torah that He has given us to achieve the ultimate reward in Olam Ha'bah, the Next World.

Of course - as in the human marriage relationship - this is something that we spend a lifetime developing and deepening. The main thing in this regard is to try, to whatever extent we can, to avoid slipping into the slumber of complacency and rote. And we must always remember that every level achieved is infinitely precious to the Almighty; more than that, every bit of effort that we put forward - even when we cannot feel any tangible result thereof - is a precious treasure to the Almighty.

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