They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I shall dwell within amidst them
— This week’s Torah portion (Terumah)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SINAI DESERT – Rosh Chodosh Nissan, 2449
Seven generations ago a man had a vision. Now, some 400 years later, his vision is fulfilled.
The man was Abraham. The fulfillment was the Sanctuary built by Moses. Only seven generations separate these two men. But these seven generations were the most eventful in history. They set the stage for all generations to come. Their experiences shape history and above all, they teach us about the upheavals of our generation today.
The story line really begins earlier, with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
In the Song of Songs we read:
“I have come into My garden, My sister, My bride.” The Midrash tells us that this verse refers to the time when the Sanctuary was constructed (in our weekly Torah portion). At that time G-d came into his garden – the Divine manifested itself in the Sanctuary, “(make for Me a Sanctuary) I shall dwell amidst them.”
The Midrash continues, that in the beginning of time the Divine Presence was revealed on Earth, in the Garden of Eden. In the wake of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, G-dliness ‘departed’ (i.e. was obscured) from the earth and rose into the heavens. But it did not end there. Six subsequent generations of sins – Cain, Enosh, the Flood generation, the Tower of Babel generation, Sodom, the Egyptians – making a total of seven – caused the Divine Presence to withdraw seven spiritual levels from its initial manifestation in this world.
Abraham reversed the process. Through his discovery and embrace of G-d he reintroduced the Divine into our existence, bringing Him back from the seventh heaven to the sixth. Seven generations of tzaddikim – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kehot, Amrom, Moses – drew the Divine Presence down through the seven levels, until Moses, the seventh generation from Abraham, concluded the process and brought Heaven back to Earth in the holy Sanctuary.
During these seven generations much transpired. Abraham taught faith to his children. These children would become the fathers of major civilizations to come. Ishmael – father of the Arab/Muslim world. Isaac/Jacob – fathers of the Jewish world. Esau – father of the Roman/Western/Christian world. Abraham’s children and grandchildren struggle with each other (see previous articles special edition #7-15).
In generation six and seven the Israelites are enslaved by the Egyptians, fulfilling G-d’s words to Abraham that his children would be “foreigners in a land that is not theirs for 400 years. They will be enslaved and oppressed.” And then Moses, in the seventh generation from Abraham leads them out of Egypt, fulfilling the second half of the promise: “But I will finally bring judgment against the nation who enslaves them, and they will then leave with great wealth.” And from this wealth (taken out of Egypt) Moses builds the holy Sanctuary.
The Egyptian exile is the archetype of the empires and civilizations to come – all shown to Abraham – each empire presenting its own unique challenges in history, until the clash of civilizations in our times, between the children of Ishmael, Esau and Jacob.
What we learn from the seventh generation is that the purpose of each confrontation is to refine and extract the Divine sparks – the ‘great wealth’ – in each respective situation and build with it a Sanctuary for G-d.
All the seven generations and all their efforts come to fruition and fulfill their objective in the Sanctuary, which manifests the purpose of all creation: To make the material world a home – and garden – for G-d.
As long as the Sanctuary is not built, as long as the material universe remains detached from its true purpose, tensions will escalate, battles will rage, the universe and its populations will not be at peace.
With the construction of the Sanctuary all the pieces are in place that would empower generations to come to deal with their struggles, and ultimately learn to build ‘Divine sanctuaries’ from our material lives.
This is the call of our times – which in many ways is its own seventh generation – to transform our world, each of us our corner of the universe, into a home for G-d.
We must ask ourselves: Is my home and work a place where G-d feels comfortable? What are we doing to make this world into a Divine garden?