The Shechina Rests on Yisroel
Part I. The Shechina Finds a Home
THE MISHKAN IN A NUTSHELL
When Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave the command to erect a Mishkan, the first Beis Hamikdash, so He stated, ועשו לי מקדש – “And they shall make for Me a place of holiness, an especial place for Me, ושכנתי בתוכם, and I will dwell in their midst” (Terumah 25:8) Now these words are of the utmost importance because we are learning in a nutshell what is meant by the Mishkan, and later the Beis Hamikdash – that it’s the place of the hashra’as hashechinah – the place where the Presenceof Hashem comes down to reside. The Mishkan wasn’t a place of prayer and service; it was that too, but actually it was much more than that. It was the dwelling place of Hashem.
This we must know, that there is such a concept, a fact, that although Hashem is everywhere, there is such a thing as Hashem concentrating His Shechinah in a certain place. ושכנתי בתוכם – “And I will reside among them,” He told us. Hashem chose that He should rest His Presence by the Am Yisroel. It’s an especial afflatus, that Hakodosh Boruch Hu comes to rest in the Mishkan, among His people, in an especial way that is not found anywhere else.
A NEW NEIGHBOR FOR THE JEWS
Now among all the statements found in the Torah, none could be as breathtaking as that one: “I will dwell among My people!” The Creator of the Universe, the מלא כל הארץ כבודו, the One Whose Presence fills the remote distances of space, is coming down to live among us?! Yes, that’s exactly what the Torah states, “Make Me a home, and I shall dwell in their midst. I have chosen the Am Yisroel as that place where I will take up residence.” Hashem forsakes the high heavens and moves into the encampment of the Am Yisroel! It’s a new “neighbor” for the Jewish people!
You know, we don’t really think too much when we read the chumash, so we gloss over these words without too much thought, but actually it was an enormous chiddush when the Creator of the Universe declared that His Presence would reside in an edifice erected by men. What could be more stunning, more astonishing, than the thought that the Creator of the Universe, whose glory fills the endless remoteness of space, should choose to live in a tabernacle of wood and cloth?! Because what was the Mishkan after all? It wasn’t even a royal palace; it was a portable house made of boards, bars and sockets. Could Hashem reside in such a place? Hashem is infinite and not physical, and His reality transcends any space measurement. He can’t live in a home; it defies all logic.
STUNNING MOSHE RABBEINU
And that’s exactly what Moshe Rabeinu said when he heard these words of Hakodosh Boruch Hu: התחיל מתמיה ואומר – “Moshe was stupefied and he said, כבודו של הקדוש ברוך הוא מלא עליונים ותחתונים והוא אומר עשה לי משכן – The glory of Hashem fills the upper and lower worlds, and yet He says, “Make for Me a place to live?!” It didn’t make any sense to Moshe Rabeinu. אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא לא כשם שאתה סובר אני סובר – So Hakodosh Boruch Hu said to Moshe, “Not as you think, do I think, אלא עשרים קרש בצפון ועשרים בדרום ושמונה במערב – “Just make for Me twenty planks on the north side, twenty on the south, eight on the west side, and that’s enough for Me” (Shemos Rabbah: 34)
Now if these words so stunned Moshe Rabeinu that Hakodosh Boruch Hu had to tell him, “Moshe, My servant, You and I think differently,” so we would be well-served if we spent some time studying this stupendous concept that Hashem rested His Presence among the Am Yisroel. What’s so important about an especial building erected for the Shechinah? Why is it so important that the Shechinah should come there more than anywhere else? Of course, like I said before, it’s such a vast concept that it can’t be explained in a couple of sentences, but whatever it was, it was an enormous demonstration that Hashem was making: “My Presence will dwell in Machaneh Yisroel, in the encampment of the Jewish Nation in a way that cannot be found anywhere else.” Such a stupendous idea, it pays for us to understand at least superficially.
WILDERNESS TOURS LTD.
Imagine we are standing on a hill, we’re visiting in the midbar. Let’s say we came from Moav or from Edom as visitors. And one of the Bnei Yisroel is standing with us and he’s pointing out to us the sights. So you’re looking out into the distance at the Machaneh Yisroel, the camp of the people. Thousands of tents, all arranged in an orderly fashion. There were roads between the tents, and the shevatim were all encamped surrounding the machaneh levi’im, the place where the levi’im lived. And in the middle, in the center of the camp, was the machaneh shechinah where a large wooden hut was standing. That’s what you saw as you stood on this hill looking out at the Am Yisroel.
So your Jewish tour guide says, “You see there, over there, that’s Reuven in that corner. All those thousands of tents, that’s Shevet Reuven. And over there, on the other side, that’s the rivevos Efraim. And look on that side, over there, you can see the alfei Menasheh.” And then he says – he tells you to look through the binoculars, “You see that tent over there, that’s where Betzalel lives. And over there on the left, that’s where Aharon Hakohen resides. And that tent, that’s where Moshe Rabeinu is right now teaching Torah to the zekeinim.”
THE EDOMITE LAMDAN
And then, the guide who is showing you the sights, points with his finger, and says, “And there, you see that tent in the middle, that’s where Hakodosh Boruch Hu, the Creator of the World, lives.” So you gasp; you weren’t expecting to hear that! You’re only a visitor after all. So you look at your guide incredulously, “What do you mean He lives there?” So he tells you matter of factly, “Yes, that’s His address. That’s where the Creator of the world lives!”
So let’s say you’re a bit of a lamdan. Imagine such a thing, a lamdan from Edom. So you ask, “Doesn’t it say (Yeshaya 66:1): כה אמר השם השמים כסאי – “Hashem says, ‘The heavens is My throne,’ והארץ הדום רגלו – and the earth is just a resting stool for My feet.’” The heaven is nothing but a throne for Hashem, and the earth is where He rests His feet. איזה בית אשר תבנו לי – “What kind of house could you build for Me?” So you have a kasha, it’s a very good kasha you asked. But the guide stubbornly tells you, “Look, you can quote all the pesukim you wish, but this is what Hashem told us. He forsook the high heavens; He has left all of space, the billions of space miles, and He has come down and He has chosen this place to dwell. He lives there, among the people.” Now if you were not from the Bnei Yisroel, if you were a visitor from some other nation, so you might shrug your shoulders. It’s an interesting thought, but it doesn’t mean much for you. But you’d still be impressed by the conviction and sincerity of the Jewish people.
THE MEN OF PERFECTION
But let’s understand not what a tourist from Edom or from Aram would see. What would the Bnei Yisroel themselves see? When the Bnei Yisroel looked at the various tents of the distinguished ones of the Am Yisroel, it wasn’t merely as a person seeing the sights; for them it was a great pride and encouragement. Because these were very great men who lived among us, men of great stature, men of perfection. And our nation was inordinately proud that these great men lived among them. It was such a happiness to pass by the tent of Betzalel and to know that we possess a Betzalel, the man of unmatched artistic abilities who built the mishkan – that Betzalel was ours, was a great pride. We were so lucky to have such a rare personality among us.
And they were even more proud when they could point to Aharon Hakohen. Aharon is unequaled in history. Aharon k’dosh Hashem, Aharon the holy man of Hashem. Aharon was cited as the apotheosis, the summit of kindliness. בשלום ובמישור הלך עמדי ורבים השיב מעוון. (Malachi 2:6) Aharon was an oheiv shalom and a rodef shalom, a man who loved peace. But not in the sense we understand it. Everyone loves peace. But Aharon loved peace with every fiber of his being. He was a man who pursued peace, which means he did everything possible to cause peace, tranquility and happiness between human beings. His life was devoted to that. אוהב את הבריות, He loved people, ומקרבן לתורה, and he brought them close to Torah too. And therefore when they pointed to his tent and they said, “This is the residence of Aharon k’dosh Hashem,” they said it with an inspiration and a pride.
Suppose somebody would be able to point out, “In my neighborhood there lives, let’s say – now I’m sorry I have to use such a comparison; I want to wash my mouth when I get through, but let’s say someone would say, “You see down the block; Beethoven lives over there!” Beethoven! The rents would go up in all the apartments in the neighborhood; the price of real estate would skyrocket. Now really it should plummet! Everybody should move out as quickly as possible. Because wherever these big musical geniuses lived, if you had an especial ability to smell, you would have to hold your nose. Because musical ability and purity of character by no means have to go together. And often they don’t. Like somebody gave me a clipping this week; the great musician Leopold Stokowski, the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, acclaimed the world over as a musical genius. So he boasted, he himself boasted to his musician friends, that he utilized the wives of the members of his orchestra. You understand now, that’s the bravado, the boasting heroics from one musician to another. So I’m sorry that we have to sink to such depths in order to appreciate this subject. But it’s important for us to understand the subject at hand.
Now if Stokowski lived on this block I’m afraid people would not hold their noses. I’m afraid they would vie with each other to try to move in. And they’d like to be somewhere on the block when pictures are being snapped of him. At least they could point someday and say, “You see that little dot way out in in the background? That’s me!” And it would be such a pride that they’d show it to their grandchildren. That’s because people today lost their sense of smell altogether.
VISITING PARSHANDASA’S HOME
Boruch Hashem, we don’t have to take pride in Stokowskis. We can take pride in those who are truly great men. If we could visit the sanctuary where Rashi Hakodosh spent his years! It’s in a little town in Germany, in Worms, Vermeiseh. It’s kept as a museum today, but that means nothing to us. If we would walk into that place, we’d walk in on tip-toe; it’s admas kodesh. You’re walking into a place that is the heart of the Jewish people, the kodesh kodoshim of our nation. The place where Rashi sat and studied the Torah, and the room where he wrote his commentaries on the entire Talmud Bavli and the entire Tanach. Rashi is the teacher of the whole Am Yisroel. Every word in Rashi is sweet as honey. If you’re an expert in language you could appreciate how Rashi made hard things soft, he made the difficult things unravel. Rashi was a master expert in explaining. He’s called Parshan Dasa, that’s the nickname he was given. It means “The one who explains the Torah.”
And so if you walk into that holy of holies, to Rashi’s study in his Beis Hamedrash, it’s the greatest of privileges. You can feel the kedushah of these ancient walls permeating your personality, entering the marrow of your bones. You’re not the same person once you visited Rashi’s beis hamedrash. Of course, I’m talking about someone who knows what it’s all about. Rashi is the beloved teacher of the Am Yisroel. You have to appreciate the great personality who once lived here and expressed his soul here, in his writings. Only that it’s pity that it’s there in Europe. Had that place been in Eretz Yisroel it would have become a shrine. No question people would come there in the hundreds of thousands and pour out their hearts to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And with the zechus of Rashi their prayers would go up to Hashem. Only that it’s in the accursed land of Germany, in the unclean golus. And even there, it’s kodesh kodoshim.
TENT OF INTOXICATION
And so now we come back to the Machaneh Yisroel in the Midbar. We could point to the tent of Moshe Rabeinu, the place where Moshe Rabeinu resided. The tent of Moshe Rabeinu! The intense emotion of pride that such a thing caused is indescribable! “I’m living in the neighborhood of Moshe!” It was a great happiness, a great pride, to know that Moshe lived among us.
But to be able to point out the tent of Moshe Rabeinu was nothing at all when compared to being able to point at the tent of Hakodosh Boruch Hu! No concept could be more astonishing than the thought that the Creator of the Universe, Whose glory fills the endless remoteness of space, would choose to dwell in a tabernacle. We can picture the intoxication of ecstatic excitement that seized upon Moshe and the people at this announcement. The knowledge, more than knowledge – the sight – of the residence of Hashem in the midst of the camp was a vivid reminder for the people that they were chosen by the Creator of the Universe forever. We shouldn’t overlook the effect of the Mishkan upon the tent-homes of the Am Yisroel. The Mishkan was of course a larger tent, but because it stood among the tents of the camp it had an unfailing effect on every tent in the camp. And the most outstanding effect was the demonstration that Hashem had chosen us from all the nations. We are the center of the Universe, for Hashem here declared ושכנתי בתוכם – “I will dwell in your midst.” Because even more than a demonstration of His presence, even more than the constant reminder that we were standing before Hashem, was the pride that the Mishkan generated in the people: “Hashem chose us; He chose to dwell among us!”
Now there’s no question that the nation gained many blessings by having the Presence of the Shechinah among them. I’m not capable of telling you everything that was gained but there’s no doubt that every individual gained a great deal of perfection of soul; the mind of every man, woman and child was filled with an Awareness that would have been otherwise impossible to achieve. But of all the blessings, of all the achievements, most important was the knowledge that Hashem chose to live among us forever. The fact that there was a special abode, a house where the King of the Universe resided among us, was so impressive that all of the Bnei Yisroel, even those who never had the chance to come visit that house, were entirely transformed because of that. It made such a deep impression that it lasted with them all throughout their lives and it accompanied them into the world to come.
THE SIMPLE FACT
Now when the Bnei Yisroel saw the house of Hakodosh Boruch Hu – and they saw it every day – so they certainly became accustomed to it. There’s no question that seeing the same thing every day is going to make you hardened and you’re not going to be excited anymore. But that’s what Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted, that they should become so accustomed to the thought that Hashem dwells in their midst that it should be beyond any doubt in their minds. It became a simple matter of fact that Hakodosh Boruch Hu resides among us.
And for forty years the Bnei Yisroel in the midbar were able to point out to their children, “My son, over there, that’s the tent of Aharon Hakohen. And there’s the tent of Moshe Rabeinu. And over there, that’s the Mishkan, the tent of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And it became a phlegmatic matter of fact, it became part of their world outlook that Hashem the Borei Kol Ha’olamos, the One who had created all the worlds, had forsaken the infinity of all the universes, all the remoteness of space, and He now dwells b’soch Bnei Yisroel. It went into the marrow of their bones.
Now this is what you should be thinking about always. The Torah is full of pesukim dedicated to this idea, and it’s a shame to let it go to waste. And even though we have never seen the Mishkan, but the pesukim we have read hundreds of times, and it pays to think into it a bit. That the Creator of the Universe, the One who fills the whole universe with His presence, מלא כל הארץ כבודו, He created the stars in the remotest distances of space; He is the ruler of millions of star worlds, and nevertheless He has forsaken everything and He has chosen to reside on our people. Now no matter how difficult that concept is, that’s the fundamental teaching of the Torah. You can’t be a Jew unless you understand the teaching that Hashem is with us forever. Not just that He will help us forever, no, it’s much more than that. He dwells among us forever. The Presence of Hashem – His actual Presence – is upon our nation forever.
PART II. Pride of Yisroel
CRASH COURSE IN BRACHOS
And it’s something we thank Hashem for every day. Every day we say it, only we don’t realize what we’re thanking for. And that’s a tragedy, because it’s such an important attitude that we should be living with, that it pays to make use of every opportunity to impress it upon our minds. Every day in shemoneh esrei we say the bracha ברוך אתה השם הא-ל הקדוש. Now all the brachos, you know, are blessings of gratitude. Boruch means we’re thanking Him. In Magen Avraham, we thank Hashem; He’s the shield of Avraham, it means He’s the shield of our nation; He protects us because of Avraham.
מחיה המתים, the second bracha, we thank Hashem for giving us food, and for healing the sick and for giving us rain; all the good things enumerated there. And one day He’ll revive the dead, and we thank Him for that too. And then there’s ברוך אתה השם חונן הדעת – You, Hashem bestow sanity! You’re thanking Hashem that you’re not in an insane asylum, that you’re not depressed. You’re full of gratitude that you’re not crazy, that you’re not paranoid or psychotic. You don’t think about that, do you? So you’re not davening properly. And when you look, you’ll see that every bracha is a bracha of gratitude.
But there’s one bracha that’s difficult to understand: ברוך אתה השם הא-ל הקדוש – We thank You Hashem that You are the holy G-d. We’re thanking Him because He’s holy?! What gratitude is required because He is Holy? I want you to hear the question. On everything in shemonah esrei there is a benefit for which we are thanking. Boruch means that we are grateful, and we bend our knees to You in gratitude. But when we come to the bracha of הא-ל הקדוש we find that the entire bracha speaks of no kindliness at all – all we do is speak about the holiness, the perfection of Hashem. So what are we thanking Him for? What gratitude is it that we’re supposed to be feeling?
ARE YOU PROUD OF YOUR BOSS?
So listen now and you’ll learn what you’re thanking Hashem for when you say הא-ל הקדוש. Tonight when you daven maariv, for the first time in your life you’ll be able to thank Hashem for being the א-ל הקדוש, the Perfect G-d. And if you forget to have it mind, there’s shacharis tomorrow, and mincha too. Don’t squander the opportunities. So we’ll explain it like this. Let’s say you have a boss over you. The boss himself is an underling, a nobody, but he’s your boss, what can you do. There’s no great pride there. You won’t pride yourself that you work for the colored man in the warehouse. Nothing wrong with working for a colored man, but it’s no great pride.
But let’s say somebody is an assistant to the president, so he feels important already. And if he’s an assistant let’s say to Dovid Melech Yisroel, lehavdil, so he’s surely important. It’s like a man who was elevated by the king. The king chose a certain man, let’s call him Wilfred, and made him a duke. So instead of being a commoner, now he’s Duke of Worchester. Instead of being Wilfred, now he’s nobility; connected to the royal family. And he walks the streets of England with pride: “I was chosen by the king!”
WE’RE ECSTATIC WITH OUR LOT!
Now, if we’re assistants to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, if He chose us and He considers us His beloved ones and His entire interest is only in us, as we’re going to see bli neder, so that’s our pride in this world; we’re happy – not happy, we’re ecstatic – that we have such a G-d.That’s what it says להודות לשם קדשיך להשתבח בתהלתך – ““We give thanks to Your holy name, and we commend ourselves, we praise ourselves, by Your praise” (Tehillim 106:47). According to the holiness, the perfection, of Hashem, so much greater is the honor, pride and security of the nation He chose to rest His Presence on. And that’s why we say thank you to Hashem for being so perfect. Because His perfection is our glory. We boast in the praise of Hashem because that’s our honor and glory. The Holy One, the Perfect G-d, that’s our G-d. And we thank Him because of that, we say, “Thank You Hashem for being הא-ל הקדוש , for being so great. We take pride that we have such a G-d, שאין כמוהו, and it’s our happiness. He chose us; we are His people and that’s an unequaled pride. “Thank You Hashem for being so perfect that it’s a glory for me to be connected to You.”
And so we begin to see what it means when people say it’s not easy to be a Jew. A person said once that: s’iz shver tzu zein a Yid, it’s difficult to be a Jew. But he didn’t understand what it meant. What it means is that there is a great responsibility in being part of the nation upon which Hashem actually rests His Presence. A Jew has to have in mind a great deal of meditation, a great deal of reflection, in order to appreciate his position in this world. He must constantly be aware of the greatness of his history. The reason that you find Jewish people who are ashamed of their Jewishness is because they’re ignorant of their past. If you learn Chumash properly, if you learn Tanach properly, you’ll begin to understand what a great privilege it is to belong to the Am Yisroel. אשריכם ישראל, how fortunate you are Yisrael, מי כמוך, who is like you?” Moshe Rabeinu said that. Who is like you?! Nobody! אשרי העם שככה לו, how fortunate is the nation that thus is his lot. And what is that lot that makes us so fortunate? אשרי העם שהשם אלקיו, because Hashem chose you.
And therefore at all times we sing אשרינו מה טוב חלקנו, how fortunate we are. A Jew has to sing at all times! At least in his heart he should always be singing in happiness because of the great honor that he possesses. His heart should sing within him because Hakadosh Baruch Hu has elevated him. A proud Jew, a Jew who understands that Hashem resides among us always, walks the streets, whatever street it may be, he’s walking on air. He’s happy always!
HASHEM SAYS SHEMA TOO
Now in our tefillin it’s written, Shema Yisroel, Hashem Elokeinu – “Listen all of you, Hashem is our G-d.” He doesn’t belong to the Polish people, or to the Mexicans or the Israelis. He’s ours. Hashem Echad – He’s One. What does that mean, “He’s One”? It means a lot of things but we’ll say now one of the important peirushim that you should think about always. And that is that He is The Only One in all of our thoughts and deeds. He is the one purpose of our lives, and we must love Him and serve Him with all of our strength – everything we do should be for Him. That’s not such an easy task, but that’s what you’re saying every day, so it’s a good idea to get busy thinking about how to do that.
So that’s our tefillin. But the gemara (Brachos 6a) says Hakadosh Baruch Hu puts on tefillin too. That’s a remarkable statement: Hakodosh Boruch Hu wears tefillin on His head. And why shouldn’t He? Tefillin is a sign of royalty, so He surely deserves to wear tefillin. Now what’s written in His tefillin, the gemara asks? What’s written in His parshiyos? So the gemara says in His tefillin is the possuk, מי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ – “Who is like you My nation Yisroel; You are the one nation on earth. Goy echaaaaadddddd. The one and only nation in the world! That’s how Hashem says it. Only He says it longer than we do. We get tired but Hashem doesn’t get tired: Echaaaaaaaaadddddddd! He says it forever and ever, “They’re My One nation in the world. That’s all I care about. Echad – “They are My one concern. Everything is done for you, My children.” Now when Hashem chooses us, it means much more than we could imagine, but what it surely means is that we are the center of His thoughts, and that everything He does – and He does everything – is for us.
JEWS REALLY DO CONTROL THE WORLD
That’s what it says, הוא השם אלקנו, He is ours, בכל הארץ משפטיו – In all the world are His judgments (Tehillim 105:7) Whatever happens in the world, we shouldn’t make any mistake, it’s mishpatav, it’s His judgements; Hashem is pulling the strings. But the preface to that is: Hu Hashem Elokeinu, He is Hashem our King, and therefore anything that happens in the world is done because of us. Everything that happens b’chol ha’aretz, in the whole world, are His judgements. And how does He do the judgments? In the role of Hashem Elokeinu, of being our G-d!
And so if you hear that there is a lack of rain in a certain state and people are suffering, Hashem is doing it because of us. Now how that works, that’s a question. It’s a good question. But it’s because of us. If gold was discovered in a certain state, it’s because of us. If there’s a hurricane, it’s because of us. There’s no question about that. Because it’s made by Hashem; and who is Hashem? הוא השם אלקנו, He is our G-d, and בכל הארץ משפטיו, His judgments throughout the world are all being done as “our G-d”.Now I know that most people don’t think this way. They think like goyim; even the frum Jews think like goyim. But you have to study what is written in the kisvei hakodesh and you have to attune your mind to this truth of the Torah.
IT’S A RACHMANUS ON THEIR PRIDE
Now, if that’s the case so we begin to see what an obligation there is upon the Am Yisrael to be proud. Ga’avah! Now that doesn’t mean the Jewish pride you find outside in the street. For a Jew just to be proud that he’s a Jew, that doesn’t mean much. Because we’re not talking about the pride like the African-Americans say, “We’re proud that we’re black.” They’re not proud anyhow. They’re doing their best not to be black. You see they go to beauty parlors and they spend millions of dollars on lotions in order to lighten their complexion. Thousands and thousands of dollars on creams to cause their hair to straighten out. Some put on wigs that you shouldn’t see their kinky hair. They do everything to look like whites. They would give their souls if they could turn white. What could they do nebach, so they say “We’re proud to be black.” And it’s the same with every nation. Every Puerto Rican says the same thing, “I’m proud to be a Puerto Rican.” He waves a little flag, he eats Puerto Rican food; that’s his pride. And the Israeli is proud to be Israeli. Every nation, they’re proud to be what they are. Alright, let them be proud. It’s a rachmanus on them.
But that’s not what we mean! When we say we’re proud, we have to understand that we’re saying it because Hakadosh Baruch Hu said that to us. Hashem told us we’re great. And if He said it, we believe it. It’s not our fault, we didn’t do it ourselves. Hashem said it and we won’t argue with Him. בנים אתם, “You are My children of Mine !” Hashem said. If He says we’re His children, are we going to argue with Him?!
And so we look up to what we possess, we look up to the Shechinah that is shoreh by us, and we have to know that He is our greatness – our greatness in this world and our greatness in the World to Come. You have to study that; you have to take the time to ponder and understand what it means to believe implicitly that Hakodosh Boruch Hu chooses a certain place, a certain people, on whom He is concentrating the Presence of His Shechinah. And that it is a covenant that He has made forever and ever with our nation. “For the mountains may depart and the hills may be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed, says Hashem who loves you” (Yeshayah 54:10).
DON’T BE A DEMOCRAT!
When you get an aliyah to the Torah you say אשר בחר בנו. What is it? Just a formula to knock off, just to be yotzei? No, it’s our duty to impress onto our minds that Hashem was בחר בנו מכל העמים, that Hashem chose us from all the nations. You can’t just say the words – you have to live with that thought! As you walk in the street you must think you’re a prince. And that ga’avasan shel Yisroel, that pride of being a true Torah Jew, knowing that Hashem lives only among us, should make us look down on everything outside of our world. Because we know that there is absolutely nothing to look for among the nations of the world.
Ga’avasan shel Yisroel, the pride that we’re speaking about here, is an ikar ha’emunah; it’s a fundamental attitude that a Jew must have. Without it you’re missing the fundamental of Judaism. You must hammer that into your head because to be proud that you’re a Yisroel means that you believe in one of the most important cardinal principles of the Torah. And it’s so stupendous of a concept that when we say it today, even among Orthodox Jews, it’s not well received. With the spirit of democracy and western ideals it’s not easy to convince people about this great principle. I’m not talking now about asking them actually feel it, that I’m not even speaking about. But even to convince them that it’s a true principle is not easy. And that is the principle that the world was created for the Jewish people. Don’t say, “Everybody is the people of Hashem.” Don’t be a democrat! You have no right to give away what doesn’t belong to you. You have no right to hand out honors to the other nations of the world.
Now that’s not easy for us Orthodox Jews to accept. Do we have the nerve, do we have a boldness, to be so conceited and praise ourselves? And the answer is absolutely! And if we don’t, then we are backsliding, we’re being remiss in our duties as Jews. And let that sink in! It’s going to hurt. You’re going to rebel, you’re going to kick when you hear that. So take a deep breath, pay attention, and hold on tight.
All of Mankind is considered nothing compared to the Am Yisroel! I’ll say it again to make sure you hear me: All the nations of the world are nothing in the eyes of Hashem when compared to us. So you’ll ask me, “Rabbi Miller, where do you get the audacity to make such a statement?” Look in the chumash! The Torah was given to us for the purpose of letting us know the great principles that otherwise we would not know. What is the Torah after all if not the thoughts of Hashem? And in the thoughts of Hashem you see that the histories of the umos haolam are ignored completely. Now if there was a lot of Torahs in the world, a Polish Torah that Hashem gave, all right. In the Polish Torah He would talk about the Polish. If there would be an African Torah, so He talks about Africa in the African Torah. But there’s only one Torah however, and even the Polish say that there’s only one Torah. They don’t say there are two Torahs. They agree that there was only one Torah. And the Africans agree with the Polish. All the Christians and Mohammedans says there’s only Torah. Only that Mohammed came along and wrote something later; but they agree that the Jews received the Torah. And what was written in the Jewish Torah? It’s written that Hakadosh Baruch Hu chose us – forever.
HASHEM NEVER SPOKE TO PATRICK
And so, anybody who feels he wants to be an anav, he wants to feel meek and humble and not be superior to anybody else, then that person is a kofer b’chol hatorah kulah, from Bereishis bara until l’einei chol Yisroel, the last words in the Torah. What does the Torah talk about? There’s a Torah after all; what’s it all about? Isn’t that a queer question? Now pay attention. The entire Torah talks only about two subjects. The Torah is about two subjects and nothing more. One subject is Hashem, that’s the main subject of the Torah. But it talks about something more than just Hashem. It also talks about the Am Yisroel. The whole Torah is nothing but the Jewish Nation. The whole Torah is וידבר השם אל משה לאמר. The whole thing! Look through every page and you won’t find even once Va’yidabeir Hashem el Patrick leimor! The Torah is filled with nothing but the Jewish nation. Wherever you look, it’s only our people, our people. Nothing is said about Irishmen, about Polish people, nothing. Only Jews! From beginning to end, the entire Tanach deals only with our people.
So what do we see? That’s the importance of the Am Yisroel is kol hatorah kulah. And therefore we have to say that the pride in being a Jew is just as fundamental as believing in kol hatorah kulah.And anyone who doesn’t understand this concept in its fullness, so he doesn’t really understand the Torah. Actually he’s a kofer b’ikar; he’s rebelling against the whole Tanach. It’s as open as could be that this is the chief function of all the writings in the Tanach, to tell us first that there is a Creator, and number two that He has a chosen nation.
WE DON’T CARE WHAT THEY SAY
Now, today this second principle is frequently overlooked. Pious Jews will say, “Yes, certainly; we’re chosen to do commandments. But you have to look at everyone else tolerantly. They’re like us. They also have ways of living, they also are nations and they also have cultures.” Now I know that some people here read newspapers, they watch television and they listen to goyim talking on the radio. So their minds are brainwashed- not brainwashed, dirt washed, bilge-water washed, and therefore it hurts them to hear the words I’m saying here. But what could I do? After all, it’s an elementary principle of the Torah that we are Hashem’s chosen people. And if you don’t believe that, then goodbye! You don’t belong. If you don’t believe we are His people, then you don’t belong to us.
We don’t care what the world says. We believe implicitly in these two cardinal principles – we believe in Hashem and we believe we are His people. No matter what the world says. They wouldn’t like to hear that, but we don’t care, we still know that we are His people. That’s the Torah! That’s the purpose of the Torah, to tell us who we are.
SOME THINGS NEED TO STAY A SECRET
Now, of course you shouldn’t despise anybody. You shouldn’t show contempt for anybody, The public disrespect that is evident among some of our fellow Jews is not prudent. Not at all. It’s silly and it’s not a k’vod shamayim. However, in your heart there’s no question what you should think. Because there is no question that when you know that you’re superior, then definitely you consider the other one inferior. It’s unavoidable!
Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to go around shouting from the rooftops that someone else is inferior. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to have to upset the gentile nations. We’re not looking to start up with nations of the world today; they have their own religions and they’ll become angry at us. But amongst ourselves, when we speak to each other, of course we say the truth. Among ourselves we speak about the truth all the time. We must spread the good news among our families and among our friends, of course. Absolutely we must do that. No doubt about it! Only that one has to be wise enough and respectful enough to not let our gentile neighbors know what we are thinking.
THE GREAT TEST OF OPPOSITION
Now the truth is that nobody is capable of appreciating what this means, but at least to a certain extent a Jew must understand that he is an aristocrat, the chosen of Hashem. However, there’s a great test, a very great test, because of the opposition of the umos haolam, the constant hammering away of the anti-Semites and also the Jewish anti-Semites today who are constantly belittling the frum Jews, all the time.
And now we begin to understand what the nisayon of life is. We’re being tested all the time. Because if we were the majority, it would be easy for us to be superior. We would easily fulfill this emunah that we are the chosen people. We’re the bosses, we dominate the world, so what’s the question?! Only that if you’re a minority and you walk in the street and a WASP driving by in a car calls you “Kike” or a boy riding by on a bike says “Get out of my way, Jew,” there’s a tendency to feel a little bit inferior. If you see all around you people who look down on you; some of them are nice enough not to say it, but in their hearts you know what they’re thinking. They despise you. They hate you. There’s no question about it. And don’t tell me not; I know the gentiles much better than you. And the truth is that today we have so many Jews who hate us; we have a double test. Once upon a time only goyim hated us. Today Jews hate us and the majority of Jews hate frum Jews. It’s a constant barrage, a great nisayon, and that’s why we’re in this world, to overcome the sheker of the world and to never lose sight of the great principle that Hakadosh Baruch Hu has taught us: that we are His people, His only people forever and ever.
BANG ON THE TABLE!
That’s what Moshe Rabeinu said when he came to Pharaoh. He hammered on the table and said: כה אמר השם בני בכורי ישראל, like it or not, this is what Hashem said: “The Am Yisroel is My firstborn, My favorite.” And that’s what we have to be telling ourselves always. We have to hear it though. We have to bang on the table and say it to ourselves again and again, and remind ourselves who we are at all times. We are the בני א-ל חי, we are the children of the living G-d. בנים אתם להשם אלוקיכם, we are children to Hashem. And we have to walk with our heads high, always cognizant of the great pride that Hakadosh Baruch Hu bestowed on us, no matter what the world says. Don’t believe in democracy; don’t believe in pluralism. He chose us, and that’s it!
I always tell the same stories so you heard this already. But I’ll tell it again. Reb Moshe Montefiore was the Lord Mayor of England. And he was also a baron. He was knighted by the king. That’s why he was Sir Montefiore. When he heard that in Russia they were persecuting the Jews, he decided to go to Russia and intervene with the Czar on behalf of his fellow Jews. So he travelled all the way across Russia with his own chariots. His own horsemen and a fancy carriage. The horsemen sat in the front, driving. And he was in the back. And on the side of the carriage were like private guards who could protect him if needed. And he was riding through Poland. He was riding through the streets of Warsaw. In Warsaw, in Poland of old, they were all anti-Semites. They hated the Jews. And here they saw a Jew riding in a carriage. A Jew who’s a big k’nocker. So there was a goy who couldn’t contain himself. A boy, a shaygetz, came running after him and he shouted, “Zhid!” Zhid means Jew in Polish. It was a derogatory way of referring to a Jew. So Reb Moshe Montefiore stopped the carriage and told his footmen to go run and catch the goy. They caught the goy and he was trembling because he knew that this Jew was a powerful Jew. They brought him to Reb Moshe and his hands and feet were trembling. So Reb Moshe Montefiore said, “Look here. In London they call me the Lord Mayor of London. The Sheriff of this and this district. Baron and Sir and so on and so on. But the biggest, the most important title, is the one you called me. Zhid! There’s nothing greater than that in the world.” And Reb Moshe Montefiore gave the boy a quid – a half pound – and he sent him away. He thanked him and sent him away.
THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
Oh, how important it is for the Jew to recognize his greatness. A Jew must always remember how important he is, and never lose sight of our distinctiveness as the central feature of the universe. That’s why the universe exists, for the sake of the Am Yisroel, and you should be proud and arrogant, and therefore you know that you have to always strive for perfection and not be satisfied to remain mediocre. The Am Yisroel must always remind themselves that they are superior and that they should never lower themselves to the level of the nations.
And what our parsha is teaching us is that one of the most important lessons of the Mishkan was this lesson of the pride of the Am Yisroel. It was the symbol of our glory.
ושכנתי בתוכם. Hashem lives with us! Those two words are a stunning declaration of the principle that Hashem’s interest is not in the vast distances of space and in the millions of star-worlds, but in Man alone. And of all men, Hashem chose the Am Yisroel and made them the center of the universe by bringing His Presence to rest among them.
GETTING DIZZY FROM THE MISHKAN
“Behold, the Lord your God possesses the heavens, and the heavens above them, and the earth and all therein, but in your fathers alone did He delight to love them, and He chose their seed after them, you, above all the nation, even to this day” (Dvarim 10:14-15). This stupendous but abstract concept was now concretized in a visible form. “They shall make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them” (Shemos 25:8). Thenceforth, the multitude of Israel, whenever they saw the Mishkan, pointed to it as the dwelling place of the Master of the Universe. And in this tangible form, this dizzyingly sublime idea was hammered constantly into the mind of the Am Yisroel.
Now the nations of the world will never yield to that thesis. But the time will come however when יושב בשמים ישחק, the One who dwells in the heavens will laugh at them, השם ילעג למו, Hashem will mock them. And the Am Yisroel will then open its mouth in happy laughter as well, as the glory of ours that we were always well aware of, now becomes visible to all. And when Hashem laughs at the nations of the world, we too will indulge in laughter to our hearts content. We will laugh and laugh in proud happiness about the glory that was always ours! אז ימלא שחוק פינו, then our mouths will be full of laughter. And we will laugh forever and ever rejoicing in the fact that in this world and in the next world the Shechina rests only on the Am Hashem.