Nachal novea; makor chochma -
A flowing river; the source of wisdom (Mish. 18:4)

Parshas Terumah 5756

(Exodus 25:1-27:19)

"They shall make a Sanctuary for Me (G-d), so that I may dwell among them (the Jews)." (Exodus 25:8)


The Jews experienced the revelation of Hashem (G-d) at Mount Sinai, His great miracles in Egypt, and the splitting of the Red Sea. It is amazing that after all this, they could suddenly construct a Golden Calf(The commandment to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was given to the Jews as a means to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf. Therefore, Rav Noson says that the Mishkan was built to facilitate repentance. The Mishkan was a beautiful structure made from the most lavish materials. How could a mere physical structure be of any assistance in enhancing the repentance process which is purely spiritual? On the surface, it seems that they are two diametrically opposed concepts. If anything, the lavishly decorated edifice, reeking of gross materialism which has the potential to lure a person away from spiritual pursuits, should be considered an impediment to repentance. Obviously, there must be more to the Mishkan than meets the eye. Based on the teachings of Rabbi Nachman and his chief disciple Rav Noson, we will explain how the Mishkan was able to facilitate the repentance process.

The Jews experienced the revelation of Hashem (G-d) at Mount Sinai, His great miracles in Egypt, and the splitting of the Red Sea. It is amazing that after all this, they could suddenly construct a Golden Calf and worship it as a god. Sure, it was in a moment of panic when they thought that their leader, Moshe (Moses) had died during his ascent to Heaven to receive the Torah. But what really happened? How could they have fallen so low? Rav Noson explains:


In preparation to the receive the Torah, Hashem through Moshe, warned the people not to come too close to Hashem's great light, for their bodies would be unable to tolerate it and they would die. Moshe was instructed to set up physical boundaries to prevent the people from coming too close, as the verse says, "Hashem said to Moshe, 'Descend, warn the people, lest they break through to Hashem to see, and a multitude of them will fall.' Moshe said to Hashem, 'The people cannot ascend Mount Sinai, for You have warned us, saying, 'Bind the Mountain [with boundary markers] and sanctify it.'" (Exodus 19:21, 23) Although the Jews complied with every detail of Hashem's command, the revelation at Sinai was nevertheless more than their bodies could tolerate, as the verse says, "Against the great men of the Children of Israel, He (Hashem) did not stretch out his hand--[at the giving of the Torah] they gazed at Hashem, [as] they ate and drank." (Exodus 24:11) The phrase, "He did not stretch out his hand(" implies that [the elders] deserved to die immediately. They sinned [at the revelation of Hashem's light at Mount Sinai] by irreverently indulging in food and drink. [From this, we see that the divine manifestation was even more than the elders were able to tolerate. The fact that they indulged in physicality in the face of such awesome spirituality was a sign that they were spiritually far lower than the level that Hashem's revelation necessitated. So instead of their bodies basking in Hashem's aura, the intense light repelled their bodies, compelling them to retreat to materialism, to eating and drinking. Even within the safe boundaries that they had set, the encounter with Hashem's brilliance was overwhelming].

Hashem did not stretch forth His hand to harm the elders because He did not want to mar the joy of the giving of the Torah. Their punishment was deferred until later. [They were blameworthy, because they succumbed to the temptation to gaze at Hashem's light on a level far beyond them. Hashem had specifically warned them not to do this. The elders incurred punishment because they violated Hashem's will directly in front of their Master's face, as it were. They did not have enough of an anchor to prevent them from going beyond the permissible limits and so they fell into error. (Rashi)]

The lower elements of the people, particularly the eirev rav (mixed multitude of converts), reacted even more drastically to Hashem's great light. They, too, wrongfully gazed beyond their limits and lacked an anchor to prevent it. The sudden deluge of ethereal light drove their bodies so far away from the spiritual source, that it nourished and magnified their lust for physicality, and threw their thought processes out of balance.


The forces of evil are nourished by extremes. When we absorb more light than we are able to, the excess spills over onto the side of evil, nourishing them, making them grow strong enough to overwhelm us. This can be compared to trying to pour a gallon of water into an eight ounce cup. The flood of holy energy strengthened the forces of evil to the point where they overwhelmed the simpler people, confusing them. This aroused within them an uncontrollable thirst for base behavior, which was expressed through worshipping the Golden Calf, as the Talmud says, "Rav Yehudah said in Rav's name, 'The children of Israel knew that the idols were non-entities, but they engaged in idolatry only so they might openly engage in immoral behavior to satisfy their desires." (Talmud: Sanhedrin 63b)


Rav Noson says that the incident of the Golden Calf teaches us that there is a delicate balance between the the soul's yearning to come close to Hashem and the body's desire to satiate its urges. For example, the sudden arousal of an extreme, burning desire to come close to Hashem is likely to cause great amounts of light to spill over to and strengthen the side of evil. The result is severe confusion, as mentioned above. Additionally, the forces of evil are nourished when a person passionately attempts to fight the confusing thoughts with which the forces of evil assail him. The evil forces will take one's passion for holiness, and convert it into a passion to fulfill his bodily urges. Quite often, after experiencing a strong spiritual awakening, an individual suddenly experiences strong physical desires. Describing this, Rabbi Nachman quoted, "They [extremists] rise to the heavens [because of their heart's excessive desire for spirituality], they descend to the depths, their soul melts away because of trouble [i.e.this sort of behavior greatly nourishes the forces of evil, enabling them to throw the extremists down to the depths]." (Psalms 107:26)

The holy Ari says that if it wasn't for the lungs, the entire body would be incinerated by the heart's excessive passion, from both its right and left sides. The heart's right side resonates with an excessive passion to come close to Hashem and the left side burns with an excessive appetite for the pleasures of this world. There is a rule that items which share a common number contain the same spiritual energies. For instance, the five books of the Torah affect a person spiritually much like the five lobes of the lungs physically, in that both work to prevent the body from overheating. When the Jews saw the awesome revelations at Mount Sinai, the right side of their heart's passions were maximally aroused with excessive desire for Hashem. In turn, the left side of their heart's passion for pleasure was totally enflamed. It was this excessive desire for pleasure that influenced the Jews to worship the Golden Calf, as explained above.


The sin of worshipping the Golden Calf incorporated every sin in the entire Torah. Moshe was commanded to construct the Mishkan as a rectification for it. The Mishkan was built from the burning desire to come close to Hashem contained within the heart of every Jew. The unbridled flood of spiritual energies that were aroused at the giving of the Torah were harnessed by confining them to the physical bounds of the structure and vessels of the Mishkan. It was the precision in the sizes, measurements, and dimensions of the Mishkan's construction and equipment that gave it the power to rectify a sin which occurred due to a lack of limitation and moderation. Thus, the potentially harmful and boundless desire for Hashem that was contained in the heart of every Jew, which influenced them to worship the Golden Calf, was transferred to a safer domain, as the verse says, "Every man whose [limitless passion for Hashem burned within his] heart [which] inspired him [to come close to Hashem] came; and everyone whose spirit motivated him [to come close to Hashem] brought a donation to Hashem for the work of the Tent of the Meeting, for all its labor and for the sacred vestments." [The items that each individual donated to construct the Mishkan contained and harnessed the boundless spiritual energies that was in their hearts.] (Exodus 35:21) This ensured that the sin of the Golden Calf would never happen again. The Rambam (Maimonides) says that complete repentance is achieved when, after confession and regret, the path of sin is abandoned and never repeated again. Thus, the Mishkan enabled the Jews to achieve complete forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf.


Physicality reflects spirituality. The lavish materials that the Jews contributed to the Mishkan's construction reflected the different types of priceless and precious goodness found within each Jew's heart. The Mishkan was adorned and constructed with the most extravagant materials to demonstrate and awaken us to the fact that even the slightest point of good found within each Jewish heart is more precious than all the silver, gold and gems in the world. This awareness is meant to encourage even the worst sinner to return to Hashem, even if he has fallen so low that he only has one point of good remaining within him. By looking at the precious materials used to build the Mishkan, the sinner is encouraged, for he realizes that, despite his spiritual lowliness, his remaining good point is as precious to Hashem as the precious materials used to build the Mishkan. For the Jewish nation had fallen to this level itself, when the people worshipped the Golden Calf. Despite this, from the little bit of good that still remained in their hearts, they donated the valuable materials that reflected those few, precious points of good that still remained within them, and from this, they built a Mishkan, a residence for Hashem, where He would be close to them.


Heaven assigns a person physical work which is most suited and closely related to his soul. It was Moshe, the Tzaddik HaEmes (the leading saint of the generation) who was chosen to build the Mishkan. This indicates that Moshe's soul was strongly associated with the spiritual energies of the structure. That association was the ability to set bounds, providing the proper means through which the infinite light of Hashem could be channeled in a safe way. Whatever is recorded in the Torah applies for all time. Therefore, Rav Noson says that Moshe constructing the Mishkan teaches us that it is the job of the Tzaddik HaEmes of every generation to channel the infinite light of Hashem, so that it can be safely absorbed and digested by the people of his generation. This is accomplished partly through his teachings and spiritual guidance that encourage moderate behavior.


If the Jews had not committed the sins of the Golden Calf and the spies evil report (cf. Numbers 14), they would have been able to enter the land of Israel and build the Temple soon after receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. Because of these two sins, the Jews were condemned to wander in the desert for forty years and the construction of the Temple was delayed for over four hundred years. In Hashem's mercy, He provided the Jews with the Mishkan, which possessed almost the same sanctity as the Temple. They were able to transport the Mishkan with them wherever they traveled, even in the desert. The desert is the domain of the forces of evil. The presence of the Mishkan in the desert enabled the Jews to neutralize the forces of evil found there. The Mishkan (and later the Temple) became the spiritual storehouse of the souls of all Israel, because its construction incorporated all the various types of spiritual energies of desire to come close to Hashem contained in the hearts of all Israel, as explained above. Containing these within the bounds of the Mishkan's structure prevented a Jew from expressing his love for Hashem in an extreme way. Anyone who connected himself to it by donating money, doing physical work towards its construction, or focusing his heart and thoughts on it, would avail himself of the spiritual energies of moderation. Extremism, as mentioned above, attracts strong attacks from the forces of evil, the intent of which is to throw the extremist down.

When someone who has sinned wants to repent, his desire to return knows no bounds. As mentioned above, such a sudden desire for good can result in very strong attacks from the forces of evil, which would ultimately prevent the sinner from repenting. However, the sinner who had a share in the Mishkan, who stored the spiritual energies of his heart within it before his sin at the time of the Mishkan's construction, could draw upon these stored energies and connect them with all the other stored energies of desire for Hashem, much like drawing money from a mutual fund. The Mishkan protected those energies from spilling over to the forces of evil, thus denying them strengthening nourishment. This inhibited the forces of evil's attempts to overwhelm the penitent with disillusionment, in order to prevent him from doing repentance. Rav Noson says that we can clearly see how the Mishkan (and Temple) was a vital apparatus that enabled one to return to Hashem and achieve full repentance.


That Moshe constructed the Mishkan in the barren wastelands of the desert gave the Jews the ability to construct similar such structures wherever they would be, even in the exile. Therefore, even after the destruction of the Mishkan and Temple, their awesome power still remains with us, helping us attain complete repentance. Part of the incredible power of the Mishkan and Temple was transferred to the synagogue, as the verse says, "Although I (Hashem) have removed them (the Jews) far off [from the land of Israel and the Temple] among the nations, and though I have scattered them among the countries, yet I have been for them a small sanctuary in the countries where they came [I have given them synagogues, secondary to My Sanctuary. (Targum) The manifestation of the Divine Presence in the Temple turned the Temple into a sanctuary. Even in the darkest exile, the Jew can find Hashem through communal prayer in the synagogue, because communal prayer (prayer within a quorum of ten Jews) draws the Divine Presence to its midst, very similar to that which occurred in the Temple. The Talmud teaches, "Hashem said, 'Everyone who studies the Torah, busies himself with kindness, and takes part in communal prayer, is considered by Me as though he had redeemed Me and My children from among the nations."' (Talmud: Berachos 8a)]." (Ezekiel 11:16)

Rav Noson says that when a person desires to repent, there is a tendency to go to extremes in order to quickly repair all the spiritual damage that he has caused, and to quickly be reunited with Hashem. The penitent is even willing to torture himself with excessive fasting and other forms of deprivation in order to rectify all that he has done wrong. Actually, this is what is truly needed to accomplish true repentance, however, it is the extremely rare individual who can withstand such a regimen. Therefore, Rabbi Nachman says that the great Tzaddikim (saints) and their students have paved the way to true repentance. All that is necessary after confession and regret, in order to fully rectify one's sins and to achieve true repentance is to be confronted with the very same impure thoughts that led one to sin in the first place and to withstand the temptation to repeat the sin--this is true repentance. Today, the penitent can activate the spiritual energies of the Mishkan and the Temple to prevent extremism, by focusing his thoughts on the sanctity of the synagogue.


The Mixed Multitude instigated the Jews' sin, influencing their lower elements to worship the Golden Calf, as the verse says, "They said, 'These are your gods O Israel, which have brought you up out of the land of Egypt." (Exodus 32:8) That it was the Mixed Multitude who made this statement is evidenced by the word "your gods". They were outsiders who had recently joined the fold, but their commitment was not complete, for they said, "your gods" and not "our gods". Rav Noson explains why the Mixed Multitude and secularists have difficulty in perceiving Hashem. They want to know everything immediately, therefore they try to explain the functions of the universe based on the logic of their current understanding. They lack the patience to perfect their minds and perceptions through spiritual and character development. Such gradual development conditions the mind to perceive and understand that which is normally beyond the human realm. When secularists try to perceive advanced spiritual concepts, they access strong spiritual light, and because they lack the necessary spiritual development to properly expand the intellect, they don't have the containers to store it. As mentioned above, spillover of the light nourishes the evil forces, inviting their attacks. In many cases, these attacks influence even the most brilliant people to come to extreme and erroneous conclusions. This is evident by the chaotic conditions of the modern world which is greatly influenced by the thinking of modern philosophers who have no energetic framework. Rav Noson says that those people who bring the energies of their intellect to within the bounds of the Torah, through study, fulfillment of the commandments, and character development are likely to be saved from going to extremes. For the Torah guides the intellect to come to the right conclusions and its moderating energies protect one from the attacks from the force of evil. Therefore, the Torah, with its rules, bounds, and limits, functions much like the Mishkan did, and we can use its powers to avoid damaging extremism. (Lekutai Halachot: Orach Chaim: Hilchot Tefelat Mincha 7:8-11, 15)

The essence of the Mishkan stands as an eternal spiritual structure that enables even the worst of sinners to return to Hashem. This shows us how much love and understanding Hashem has for His creatures and that He desires everyone to come close to Him. Therefore, He provided countless means through which to accomplish this. All we must do is take the first step.


Lofty spiritual experiences, that are far beyond one's level, can lead to great confusion and cause one to fall to the depths of sin(A very great Tzaddik and Torah scholar had just married off his righteous and talented daughter to a unique young Torah scholar. The groom was a person who removed himself from the material world, studying the Torah day and night, concerned only with serving Hashem. It was a perfect match. The Tzaddik was extremely happy and thanked Hashem for his great fortune in marrying off his precious daughter to such an outstanding young man.

After the wedding, the young man continued to study the Torah day and night, as he had done before. He didn't pay any attention to the mundane world, even as much as a hair's breadth. The young man spiritually elevated himself from level to level until he was worthy of being visited by a heavenly magid, an angel sent to teach him deep secrets of the Torah. Every night this angel would teach him the most awesome and deep secrets. The young scholar felt that since he was worthy of such a precious gift, it wouldn't be right to tell anyone, and he kept it secret.

One night as they were learning, the magid instructed the young man that it would be necessary for him to commit a certain severe sin, which incurred the penalty of exercision (kareis). The magid promised him that if he would commit this sin, he would be able to create such great rectifications, that it would cause the Messiah to come soon after the sin was committed. The young man felt that this was too heavy a burden to take upon himself. On the one hand, he was commanded to sin by an angel of Hashem. Yet on the other hand, how could he commit such a grevious sin. He decided to consult his righteous wife and told her the entire story. She had the same misgivings and didn't know what to say. She decided to consult with her holy father and told him the entire story.

From what his daughter described, it seemed to her father that this angel came from the side of impurity. He immediately called for his son-in-law and gave him the following instructions, "Every angel has the four letter Name of Hashem engraved on his forehead. These letters appear bright and shine with light on the foreheads of holy angels, but appear black and dark on the foreheads of angels from the side of impurity. If you see that this angel is from the side of impurity, which I suspect he his, then run away from him. I will give you some kamiyas, with holy Names written on them, to protect you from his wrath, for when he sees you trying to escape, he will surely try to harm you."

That night, as they learned as usual, the young scholar gazed at the forehead of the magid, and sure enough, as his holy father-in-law had suspected, the letters engraved on the angel's forehead were black and dark. The angel then realized that the young man had discovered his true identity and immediately tried to attack him. The young man was now in grave danger, but through Hashem's mercy, the kamiyas that his father-in-law had given him protected him and he was saved. The reason why the young scholar had been subjected to this ordeal was that he had once committed a certain sin which had not been rectified. That sin made him vulnerable to the attack. (O'tzar Yirat Sha'my'yim)

HITHBODEDUTH (secluding oneself)

Rabbi Nachman taught that as well as reciting the mandatory daily prayers contained in the prayer book, we should also speak to Hashem, just as we would confide in our best friend: in seclusion, in the language and style with which we feel most comfortable. This is based on the advice of our sages, just to mention two sources: "Rebbe Yitzchak said: 'Why were our forefathers barren? Because Hashem desires the prayers of the righteous."' (Talmud: Yevamoth 64a) "Hashem seeks nothing other than to hear the prayers of Israel." (Medrash Tehillim 116:1) The following is an example of such a session: Master of the Universe, Master of love and forgiveness, You expectantly wait for the wrongdoer to cleanse himself. You open the gate to those who knock [on the door] of repentance. Help me, with Your abundant mercy and bring me back to You quickly and easily. Help me repent completely for all my sins that I have committed against You from my youth until this day. Don't grab this opportunity from me! Bring us back to You, O Hashem and we will return, renew our days as of old. (1 Lekutai Tefilos 35)


Based on the advice of our sages (Talmud: Megilah 28b), Rabbi Nachman stressed that everyone should study at least one law from the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) [or its equivalent, other books which are based on the Shulchan Aruch] everyday without fail. (Sichoth HaRan 29) It is a positive commandment to give charity to the poor of Israel, as it is written, You shall surely open your hand to him [to the poor]. (Deut. 15:8) If a poor person asks for help and one disregards his supplications and does not give him relief, one then transgresses the commandment of You shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother. (Deut. 15:7) The giving of charity is a characteristic of the descendants of our father Abraham, as it says, For I (Hashem) know him (Abraham) that he will command his do charity. (Genesis 18:19) Israel will be redeemed only by means of charity, for it says, Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those that return to her with charity. (Isaiah 1:27) (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: 34:1)

Volume 4, Issue 19