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    I myself am the temple – T’rumah

    Depiction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem

    World problems were never easy.

    The big issues were always hard to handle. But now it is more difficult than ever before.

    With the modern rapidation of change and the increasing complexity of everything, nobody can claim to be fully informed about anything. Nobody is fully competent at broad decision-making. No-one enjoys automatic authority any more.

    The credibility of leaders is questioned and derided. People are confused.

    No wonder so many pressure groups claim to have the perfect answer to everything – and no-one can be quite certain as to how much to believe of what they say…

    In the chorus of voices that believe they have something to say, is there a role for religion?

    Once, there was a prophetic voice that spoke out like a shofar with the message, “Thus saith the Lord”.

    But now?

    Has religion lost its nerve or its voice, or both, and become obsessed with the petty and parochial, with ecclesiastical pomposity and the minute details of liturgy and law?

    This week’s sidra would seem to reinforce this view.

    Instead of addressing the large issues of life and death, of the nature of man and human duty and destiny, of economics, ethics and the environment, it offers painstaking architectural detail about an ancient religious building.

    But to criticise it on these grounds is to ignore the many other sidrot and sections of scripture that speak of the great themes and call to the human conscience to build a world founded on sound principles.

    It is also to misunderstand – perhaps deliberately – the purpose behind the details of architectural design, materials and measurements.

    What building is it that is on the Torah’s drawing board? The tabernacle.

    God has commanded, v’asu li mikdash, “let them make Me a sanctuary”. But not as an end in itself. For the verse continues, v’shachanti b’tocham, “that I may dwell in their midst”.

    Note what the words say: not, “I will dwell in the midst of the tabernacle”, but “I will dwell in their midst”, within the builders, not just the building.

    Samson Raphael Hirsch obviously accepts that the Divine command to construct the tabernacle must be performed literally. But he adds that each builder must not only build a temple but be a temple.

    Each of us metaphorically needs an Ark, which gives us a sense of purpose and respect for authority.

    We need an altar, symbol of sacrifice for a cause and a unifying factor in community life; a menorah, inspiring us to bring light, faith and hope to the world; cherubim, standing for purity and service; and a holy of holies, creating a sense of reverence and the knowledge that, as the Psalmist says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it”.

    By making oneself into a temple and learning the lessons symbolised by the features of the sanctuary, we help to make a quality society, a quality nation and a quality civilisation.

    By enabling God to dwell within us, we make it possible for His presence to permeate the world.

    By being stable and responsible for whatever we do, wherever we go, whoever we are, we make it easier to regulate human life and affairs and to face the challenge of the big issues of today and tomorrow.

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