Four decades ago I came to New York to attend yeshiva. I heard so much about Yeshiva but it was the first time I ever saw one.
I was nervous but I was excited. When we walked up the walkway to the building it was recess time. I saw tens of boys playing handball against the outer wall of the Yeshivas building. I remember thinking to myself how strange it was that boys were throwing a ball against a holy building. Of course by the end of the day I was on the winning team.
We have to make a home for the Shechina. It has to be beautiful!
When Moshe first heard that Hashem wants a “home” in this world he was shaken. The whole Earth could not contain G-d, how can I build a building that will contain Him?! G-d answered, “Don't worry, just build a structure 20 beams by 20 beams by 8 beams and I will fit my Presence into it.” (Yalkut Shimoni Teruma 365)
Hashem wants a home! He wants a beautiful home. It's not that he wants us to have a home, a place to hang out or a place to study. Hashem wants a home for Himself, for His Shechina in this world. That is what the Torah is telling us. He wanted a home while we traveled through the desert so we built a Mishkan. He wanted a home while we lived in Jerusalem so we built a Beis HaMikdash and when that was destroyed we built another Beis HaMikdash. When we were forced to leave Jerusalem, we were once again on the road. Hashem wanted to live amongst us in every station that Jews find themselves in. He wanted a home in Bavel, in Poland, in Turkey, in Morocco, in New York, in LA, and in Jacksonville Florida.
Moshe couldn't understand the purpose of this building. A building for the Jews is understandable. Just like we need buildings for schools, for hospitals, for government, and for entertainment we certainly need a place to pray. But when Hashem asked for a home for Himself – that threw Moshe off. Hashem is infinite – buildings have walls. Hashem insisted though, “You just build the building,” He said, “I will squeeze in”.
Our Shuls are resting places for the Shechina. I look around and sometimes I feel they are resting places for ourselves. Our Shuls have to be beautiful, not because we like beautiful things but because the Shechina is here and Hashem said to make it beautiful. We have to be respectful and dignified in Shul not so that we don't disturb our neighbor but because the Shechina is here. Understanding this makes the whole difference.
Building and beautifying a Shul is a fulfillment of the Mitzva of building a Beis HaMikdash. Building it as the tallest and most magnificent structure in the community is making beautiful accommodations for the Master of the Universe. When we pray in these Synagogues we are standing before Hashem. If we build for the Shechina we will feel the Shechina.
Let us all be privileged to build the final home for the Shechina in Yerushalayim. “Ve shum Naavodech B'Ahava U'byirah” There we will worship Hashem with awesome love.
This weeks Dvar Torah was dedicated by my old friends Reb Shimon and Sheri Katz. Sheri was from the original “Buffalo Chaburah”. We are so proud of them and the family they have built. May Hashem give them only nachas!