Parashat Teruma- Perpetuating the Influence of Sinai
Parashat Teruma tells of G-d’s instructions to Beneh Yisrael regarding the construction of the Mishkan, the sanctuary that served as the temporary Bet Ha’mikdash until Beneh Yisrael entered the Land of Israel and were able to build the permanent Bet Ha’mikdash in Jerusalem.
The Midrash makes a seemingly peculiar remark to the beginning of this Parasha, commenting that this Parasha is connected to G-d’s proclamation through the prophet Malachi (1:2-3), "Va’ohab Et Yaakob Ve’et Esav Saneti" – "I loved Yaakob, and I despised Esav." Somehow, the command to build a Mishkan is associated with this pronouncement, where G-d affirms that He loves Am Yisrael and dislikes the wicked nation of Esav. How?
The Kerem Shelomo (Rav Shlomo Halberstam of Bobov, 1907-2000) offers an explanation based on a teaching of the Or Ha’haim (Rav Haim Ben-Attar, 1696-1743) regarding G-d’s special love for Beneh Yisrael. The Talmud famously relates that before G-d offered the Torah to Beneh Yisrael, He first offered it to the other nations, each of whom rejected it upon hearing what it entails. The Or Ha’haim commented that G-d, in His infinite love for Beneh Yisrael, always intended for us to receive the precious Torah, and not the other nations. And therefore, before offering Beneh Yisrael the Torah, He brought them to Mount Sinai, a place with inherent Kedusha (sanctity) which would, undoubtedly, influence them to accept the Torah. When offering the Torah to the other nations, G-d went to them in their lands, which were places of impurity. This influence all but guaranteed that these nations would reject the Torah. Hashem then brought Beneh Yisrael to Mount Sinai, where they came under the influence of the special sanctity of this location. This Kedusha impacted them, and inspired them to proclaim, "Na’aseh Ve’nishma" – "We will do and we will hear" – wholeheartedly and lovingly embracing Hashem’s Torah.
On this basis, the Kerem Shlomo suggests an explanation of the Midrash’s perplexing remark. Due to Hashem’s great love for Beneh Yisrael, He brought them to Mount Sinai so they would accept the Torah – and out of this same love, He commanded them to build a Mishkan. He wanted them to perpetuate the special influence of Mount Sinai, to have in their midst a place of Kedusha similar to the special Kedusha of Mount Sinai, which would influence them to make the right decisions and live the right way. This is the connection between the prophet’s proclamation – "I have loved Yaakob" – and the command to build a Mishkan. It was because of G-d’s special love for Beneh Yisrael that He issued this command – because He wanted them to always be under the influence of Kedusha.
Living in a society with a foreign culture and foreign values, we do not even realize how much we are influenced by those values and by society’s lifestyle. The society around us has values and beliefs that are completely at odds with ours, and encourages a lifestyle that is, in many ways, diametrically opposed to the way the Torah wants us to live. Whether we recognize it or not, we are influenced by this spiritually hostile culture. We might think we are protected, but we’re not.
Hashem, in His infinite mercy, gave us the Mishkan so we can come under the positive influence of Kedusha, the influence of Sinai. Today, of course, we don’t actually have a Mishkan, but instead, we have our synagogues, yeshivot, and Torah classes. It is imperative for all of us to ensure we come under this influence to counter the influence of general society. We need to involve ourselves as much as possible in Kedusha so we can live under the sacred influence of Sinai, and thus live the way we are supposed to live even while living in a society whose values and beliefs encourage us not to.