Rabbi Shaya's Thoughts

Unity In Stones

This week’s Torah portion discusses the garments of the High Priest. His outfit was very elaborate, with layers of colorful clothes, bells etc.  One of the main garments was the breastplate which included twelve inlaid precious stones, with the names of the twelve tribes engraved within the stones, with a total of twenty-five letters.

It is interesting to note how the commentators point out the nuances in relation to the listing of the names of the tribes.   Are they listed in the order of the birth of their father or their mother? Were they listed downward or across?  Regardless how they’re listed, the number equals twenty-five.   On the surface, one can ask, who cares? Why does it matter?

Upon closer examination we realize that the key to understanding the significance lies with the number twenty-five. There are twenty-five letters in the Shema. The Shema talks about our commitment and unity with G-d.  

What matters to us is to understand the lesson that the breastplate teaches us. Each and every name and each and every letter has a message that unites all the Jews together as one.  We might come from different tribes, but we all have one father. We all say the Shema with the same number of letters; it is the Shema that unites us all as one.  The High Priest with his breastplate unites all the Jewish people together as one.  

A Dwelling Place for G-d

In the vestibule to our Chabad Center is a sign with a verse from this week’s Torah portion that states: “They should make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell amongst them.”

This verse in its purest sense is referring to building the temporary Mishkan (tabernacle) in the desert, and eventually the permanent Temple in Jerusalem. So why are we citing the verse here? Are we trying to equate our humble synagogue with the great Temple of yore? 

If we understand that the Torah is timeless and every statement from G-d is relevant to every generation, then we understand that, although our “temples” are nothing compared to the grand Temple of Jerusalem, we can, and should, still build temples wherever we are and invite G-d into these houses of worship so that G-d can dwell amongst us.

However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe took this a step further in 1987 while he was giving a public address to children. He said that little children may find their bedrooms/playrooms to be more comfortable places to hang out with their friends; therefore it would be an appropriate idea for them to turn their bedrooms/playrooms into “mini-sanctuaries” by keeping there a prayer book, a book of the Torah, or a charity box, and to have friends over and do good deeds. This way, even a bedroom or playroom can become a place where G-d can “dwell amongst us.”

Here we see how far the meaning of a verse can go. True, the Temple has been destroyed, but the spirit of the message that G-d can, and does, dwell amongst us still lives on, so long as we invite G-d in.

Shabbat Shalom,

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