July 17, 2024
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July 17, 2024
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Building a Place in Heaven

When the foundation of the famed Volozhin Yeshiva was being poured, Rav Chaim Volozhin, the founder and rosh yeshiva, stood there saying Tehillim for hours, with tears flowing. Rav Chaim explained that the foundation of a building provides its stability and structure. If the foundation is poor, the building will collapse. Rav Chaim continued: “A yeshiva is not just a building. It’s a house for Torah and tefillah that needs a strong spiritual foundation to make it a place worthy for Hashem’s presence to reside and for people to grow. Therefore, I stayed while the physical foundation was being poured to ensure that the spiritual foundation was solid, in addition to its physical foundation being solid.”

In Parshas Terumah, Hashem commands the Jewish nation to build a house for Hashem. The Jewish nation came running. Within 36 hours, all the gold, silver and precious materials needed for the construction were contributed. This was the first 36-hour charity campaign—long before “Charidy” and other 24-36-hour fundraising digital platforms.

Did Hashem need all the gold, silver and precious materials? Were these materials really going to bring the presence of Hashem?

The Alshich gives an incredible explanation based on a novel reading of the opening of Parshas Terumah. “Veyikchu li terumah mei’eis kol ish asher yidvenu libo”—You shall take for Me a portion, from every man whose heart moves him. Why is there emphasis on the word “take” for Me? Don’t all the material possessions in the world belong to Hashem? As the Navi says, Hashem says, “Li hakesef veli hazahav”—All the silver and gold belong to Me. Hashem does not need our possessions!

The Alshich explains that the beginning of the pasuk is really in the form of a question. Tell the Jewish nation, “Do I need you to donate to Me your gifts? What I ask for and what is needed to build the Mishkan is for each person to give from his heart. It’s the sincere desire to bring Hashem’s presence into their lives that is the contribution most needed to build the Mishkan.

The Alshich adds, we can’t really build a Mishkan for Hashem on Earth. The Beis Hamikdash is really in two dimensions: a physical edifice located in Yerushalayim and its spiritual counterpart located in heaven. Our job is to create the physical edifice exactly parallel to the one in heaven, to properly connect ourselves to Hashem.

Rabbi Heshy Kleinman in his sefer “Yearning with Fire” has a beautiful foreword written by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, who quotes Rabbi Shimon Schwab on the physical and spiritual dimension of the Beis Hamikdash. Rav Schwab notes that the word Tzion is used to refer to the Beis Hamikdash, as is mentioned in Birkas HaMazon in the third bracha, “Hashem, have compassion on Yerushalayim Your city and on Tzion mishkan kevodecha—the place of Your resting.” Besides referring to the resting place of Hashem in Heaven, Tzion also refers to Yerushalayim, as we say in the paragraph of “Retzeih” that’s added to Birkas HaMazon on Shabbos, “Tzion irecha”—Tzion Your city. Tzion refers to both Yerushalayim and the Beis Hamikdash, as they are one and the same. Yerushalayim is akin to the body and Beis Hamikdash is the soul.

Unfortunately, we do not have a physical Mishkan or a Beis Hamikdash at the present. However, our spiritual dimension is in full formation and the physical Beis Hamikdash is just a magnification of the heart of each Jew. The Beis Hamikdash is in the heart and soul of every Jew. If our heart and soul connect with Hashem, then we connect to the Beis Hamikdash in heaven and help bring Hashem’s presence down to earth.

The Mishkan was the place designated for prayer and the continued dissemination of Torah. Today, our shuls and yeshivos each constitute a small mikdash, as they are also designated for Torah and tefillah. When Moshiach comes they will be annexed as rooms connected to the Beis Hamikdash.

Just like Rav Chaim Volozhin, we need to infuse our hearts with spirituality via passionate prayer, Torah study and the performance of mitzvos. Hashem wants our passion in all of these activities. Each is a worthy investment!

Our yeshiva just finished its dinner campaign. Thank you to all the donors and supporters for your gifts, and the heart and soul that accompanied them. Together, we look forward to increasing the Torah learning and prayer that takes place in our yeshiva, with the construction of our new building, whose plans are now, baruch Hashem, underway. Your investments in this endeavor will truly produce great spiritual dividends.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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