The Mishkan (Tabernacle) that the Jews erected in the desert was much more than simply the focal point of prayer. It was nothing less than a microcosmical representation of the entire Creation and the place through which all rectifications and prayers emanated from and ascended. It was through there that the Shekhina was able to manifest in the physical realm and bless the entire world.
There’s no shortage of secrets when it comes to the Mishkan as it connects all the spiritual worlds together. Built under the directions of Moshe Rabbenu, who later appointed Betzalel and Aholiav, it served as a temporary “movable Temple” during the journey through the wilderness, and an abode for the holy utensils.
Our sages teach that, due to its tremendous holiness, it was never destroyed, but simply dismantled when the time came to build the First Holy Temple.Since the Mishkan is eternal, what can we learn from it and how can it help our lives?
The Temple still stands
In a few places in the Talmud and Zohar, we find the idea that there is a celestial and an earthly Tabernacle/Temple. This is in line with the well-known Kabbalistic principle that “as above so below”. Ever since the Temple was destroyed, the Zohar teaches us that Hashem says “You’d think I’d enter the Holy Temple [above] while the Temple below is destroyed? I swear this will not happen until the Temple below is rebuilt”.
In fact, the Alshich (Rabbi Moshe Alshich) of Tzfat teaches that we find a clue that the 2 Temples are juxtaposed when Solomon built the Holy Temple and used a double expression בנה בניתי (I built, twice).
We then, in a sense that the Temple still stands! This is the basis for the halacha (law) that, when praying, one should direct his thoughts to “East, then to Jerusalem, then to the Temple, then to the Holy of Holies”. There’s a huge secret to this seemingly little law and that is based on the teaching of the Ba’al Shem Tov that “wherever our thoughts are, that’s where we ourselves are”.
When imagining standing inside the Holy Temple, many people dismiss and think this is just our little “imagination”. However, this is a mistake, because part of the effort to experience elevation is trusting and knowing that our imagination is the motor to achieve that experience! Therefore, when we are imagining the Holy Temple, we should never think we are trying to fool ourselves, but try to make it as real as possible. When we do so, our prayers have much more power to ascend, and this can be done anytime during the day and in fact work for every type of meditation.
The lesson is: believe you are there, and you are half way through.
Kindness towards Hashem
Many books of Mussar (self-discipline) say we are meant to emulate Hashem, in all his ways. This is taken to mean that we should imitate His attributes. However, there’s another layer to that idea, which is, just as He does acts of kindness to us, so too we can do acts of kindness to Him. This idea seems very strange since Hashem lacks nothing. So, what can we give Him?
The source for this is, as we wrote in the article about Sarah, the Zohar (2:114b) as it writes: “Who is the Chasid (pious)? One who does Chesed to His Creator”. It is then possible to do acts of kindness to our Creation. How so?
The Ba’al Shem Tov teaches in Tzava’at HaRivash(“The Testament of the Ba’al Shem Tov”), that when a person experiences a lack, this is in fact a lack from the Shekhina, since our souls all come from there. This shouldn’t be surprising, but many people don’t think that everything we do in prayer, study and Mitzvot is meant to fix the Shekhina. When we are focused on the Shekhina (which is Hashem’s feminine, immanent mode of divine providence for the world), we are in fact doing acts of kindness to Him! This is why, when the Mishkan was built, only people “whose heart was generous enough to donate” gave the materials to be used. We see here another clue that the people who volunteered to give the materials were generous to Hashem himself!
Hashem desires the heart, and when we are able to step out of our own problems and realize they are in fact Hashem’s problems, we are able to bring forth our salvation in a much better and faster way. So, when we ask for money, health, children, spouse, or anything else, it’s great practice to keep in mind that Hashem Himself is suffering with us, but we don’t want Him to suffer because we love Him so much, therefore we ask what we need for His sake.
This is a very important teaching from the Ba’alShem Tov and clearly this is a very high level of spiritual service, but one that’s attainable for those that truly seek Him. And we learn these secrets (and many others) from the Mishkan.
I bless you that you attain all your hearts desires and find Hashem in your lives!