כל הנשמה תהלל י-ה הללוי-ה
The Entire Neshama Will Praise Y-ah, Halleluy-ah
King David ended his monumental work, Tehillim, Psalms, which, among other things, contains or hints at the entire Oral (meaning no written, not fixed to any printed page, and, therefore, Infinite, like The Creator Himself) Torah with those words above.
Each of us has at least one thing inside us, a special talent, a point of view, a sense of humor, a passion, a love, an interest, a hobby, an expertise….. that makes us uniquely who we are. Many of us have several, but everyone has at least one. Maybe we can sing, perhaps have a phenomenal memory, an intense love. Perhaps we can dance, maybe play the guitar. Write computer code, find new insights in a page of Talmud that’s been pored over by generations of brilliant scholars. Some of us can run faster or jump higher or hit or catch a ball. Can defend an offender so passionately as to acquit them, can lead Tefilla, can sing a song, are a magnet to children or, perhaps, to stray cats and dogs. Some people can just sit and smile and make those around them feel good.
Parshat T’rumah instructs each individual Jew to transfer to God some mysterious matter called That Which Is Elevated. At the literal level, our ancestors were, historically, commanded to bring precious material for the building of the Mishkan, the portable temple, literally the Dwelling of the Infinite God within the physically restricted desert within the similarly restricted material world. But, of course, we know that this is also the blueprint for the future Mikdash, Holy Space, the Temples in Jerusalem. Likewise, we have been taught repeatedly that The Torah is, like The Holy One Himself, Infinite, and while describing a single mundane building project in time, It also instructs each of us, throughout history, how best to live our individual lives.
If you’ve been following my essays over the last couple years, you’ll notice that I have become very influenced by the teachings and ideas of Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, the Ishbitzer Rebbe, rabbi in a small Polish town in the mid-nineteenth century (1839-54). A shtetl where over 90% of its approximately 5000 Jews were slaughtered in the Shoah, Holocaust. At the Ishbitzer‘s time there were, more likely, just under 3000. Nonetheless, his words seem especially relevant and true today, especially for those of us privileged as well as brave, to live in Israel, working to complete our charge as Jews and Humans, to partner with God in His Creation, creating the ultimate balance of din and chesed, awe and love, while adding the finishing touches which, in any work, brings the beauty.
In his major work, Mei HaShiloach (Vol.2), he teaches us that the real mitzvah is to aid God in all of His directing that world, everything in it’s exact time. We’re no longer restricting our thinking to a single building project, as it were, and not even to it’s constant upkeep, but to everything He does in our world. A one-time event, obviously, is inadequate, and rather, the description in the Torah is meant to serve as a blueprint for our lives, to raise up and donate whatever is needed at the moment.
While there are descriptions of how the “architecture” of the Mishkan resembles, or can be mapped out, on a human body, as well as the Sefirot, that really tells us that it is a model of the Universe (as are each one of us, too). Gold, silver, wood, colored dyes, etc. is merely a beginning to help us understand. Additionally, we must first be the owners of our T’rumah. And it must truly reside in our hearts (Yidvenu Libo). And just as he hints through a midrash he brings, some gifts will be gold and not silver, fields and not vineyards, in other words while each of our individual contributions will not encompass the entirety of the project, perfecting this material world, having been “lifted up” to The Creator, they will be unified within Him, so each of our individual gifts, our individual passions, what each of us brings into this world and into Life, will complement and complete everyone else. Even if we, individually, can’t possibly imagine how our song or our line of computer code or our four meters of wall, or our love and nurturing a single child in a single family, or whatever it is that moves us to add that to the world, we should rely on our Emunah and Bitachon, belief and trust, that it will all fit together.
Moreover, each of us has moments, sometimes very extended ones, when we can account for this interest or this emotion. “Why am I the way I am?”, we often cry out. Or “Why. has this happened to me?”
The answer, from this perspective is we are each given exactly what we need, throughout our lifetimes, to bring up, to develop and to then contribute. It is all needed, each of us is needed and have an equally integral part to play.
Remember, we describe the describe Mashiach as one who will, among other things, build the Third Temple, Bayit Shlishi. This isn’t intended to be a myth or a children’s story, but a heads-up of what we will actually be called up to do at that time. So, we will each of us need to learn how to bring the entirety of our individual Neshamot, as T’rumah, into service.