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The Closeness of Golus

Parshas Pekudei begins with the words, “These are the tallies of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the Testimony.” Why does the possuk state “Mishkan” twice? Rashi explains that the word mishkan is related to the word mashkon, collateral. The double language thus hints to the two Batei Mikdashos that were taken from the Jews as collateral due to their sins.

Why is it important to hint to the destruction of the two Batei Mikdashos now, when the Mishkan is first being erected?

The Alter Rebbe explains in Likkutei Torah that the word pekudei, reckonings, can also be used in the context of the intimate connection between husband and wife. (As an example, the Alter Rebbe quotes Chazal’s directive that “A person is obligated lifkod, to be intimate, with his wife before leaving on a journey.”) The Mishkan thus represents the deep bond between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel, similar to the union of marriage.

There is a well-known principle that whenever a single verse carries multiple interpretations, the various explanations are interrelated. How does this apply to the explanations of Rashi and the Alter Rebbe? To the contrary: While the Alter Rebbe’s explanation emphasizes the higher aspects of the Mishkan, Rashi focuses on the fact that it was taken away from us due to our sins!

Only Through Sin?!

The purpose of the Mishkan was to serve as a place where Hashem’s presence could dwell. Now, there are many levels in the extent of the shechinah’s revelation, and the Mishkan was merely the first step in this process. First came the Mishkan, which was a “temporary” dwelling place for Hashem; next came the two Batei Mikdashos, which were “permanent” dwelling places; and finally will be the third Beis Hamikdash, where Hashem’s presence will be revealed in an even greater manner.

Therefore, immediately at the erection of the Mishkan, the possuk alludes to (the destruction of the two Batei Mikdashos, which led to) the third Beis Hamikdash. With this, the Torah is telling us that the concept of veshachanti besocham as it existed in the Mishkan is only the beginning, and will reach its perfection in the third Beis Hamikdash.

It follows that the third Beis Hamikdash will only be achieved through the sins that led to the destruction of the first two. How can this be?

Although a person is endowed with free will, and it is he who chooses to sin chas veshalom, this too is by Divine Providence. Obviously, Hashem abhors evil, and does not want us to choose that path. But the fact that He allows for such a choice to exist demonstrates that it, too, has a purpose—so that we can reach the heights that can only be achieved through teshuvah, which are greater than what a tzaddik can ever attain.

Similarly, although we were sent to exile because of our sins, there is a deeper reason behind it—to ultimately lead to the level of Divine Presence that will be revealed in the third Beis Hamikdash.

Food and Clothing

A husband is required to supply his wife with three things: food, clothing, and intimacy. These three elements reflect three levels of G‑dliness that Hashem (the “husband”) grants to Bnei Yisroel (the “wife”).

Food is consumed and internalized. This represents a lower level of G‑dliness that can be internalized within a person. Clothing, by contrast, surround a person. This represents a higher level that cannot be internalized, “surrounding” the person instead. Yet, this level affects the person even more than the first level. (Indeed, R. Yochanan would call his clothing “those that honor me,” a concept that is not achieved with food.)

These two levels correspond to mitzvos asei (positive mitzvos) and mitzvos lo saaseh (negative mitzvos). When a person does a mitzvas asei, the action serves as a vessel that receives the divine light that is drawn through the mitzvah. By contrast, the energy that is drawn through a mitzvas lo saaseh is too great to be received in a vessel, and therefore cannot be elicited through action.

The Tikkunei Zohar states that mitzvos asei are associated with the last two letters of Hashem’s name, vav and hei, while mitzvos lo saaseh are associated with the first two letters of yud and hei. The possuk states, “הנסתרות . . והנגלות – the hidden…and the revealed.” The word והנגלות is comprised of the two words ו"ה נגלות, “the letters vov and (second) hei are revealed,” while הנסתרות tells us that ה' נסתרות – not only the yud, but even the (first) hei is concealed. Thus, mitzvos lo saaseh relate to a much higher level of G‑dliness, which cannot be tapped through action.

Revealing the Essence

The third element is intimacy. Food, and even clothing, are specific things the husband gives to his wife. Intimacy, by contrast, is where the essence of the husband is unleashed, reaching the essence of the wife.

The same applies to the connection between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel. Food and clothing represent the specific revelations that are achieved through mitzvos asei and mitzvos lo saaseh. Intimacy, however, reflects a boundless revelation that comes from Hashem’s essence, which we similarly receive in a deep and profound way. This level is achieved (not through mitzvos, whether positive or negative, but) through teshuvah.

This concept is expressed in a halachah regarding intimacy: “If a husband says, ‘I will remain clothed and she will remain clothed,’ she may demand a divorce.” Intimacy reflects the revelation of Hashem’s essence that is beyond the external level of “clothing.” And despite the greatness of the revelation, it is received internally, reaching a level that is deeper than “clothing.”

Hashem’s Journey and the Keruvim

It turns out that the deepest level of “intimacy” is attained only through teshuvah—namely, only once someone has sinned!

The Alter Rebbe hints to this idea by citing the statement of Chazal, “A person is obligated to be intimate with his wife before leaving on a journey.” The “journey” alludes to golus, when the shechinah has returned Above and Hashem has “left” on a lengthy “journey.” However, deeper probing reveals that golus is when Hashem is “intimate” with his wife, Knesses Yisroel. This is because the sins that caused golus lead to teshuvah, which achieves the revelation of Hashem’s essence.

This explains a baffling story related in Gemara. When Titus yimach shemo entered the Kodesh Hakadashim, he saw the keruvim united together as husband and wife. He proceeded to remove them and display them throughout the world, mocking, “Look at what this nation serves!”

We know that when the Jews would fulfill Hashem’s will, the keruvim would face each other and join together, and when they would not, they would turn away from each other. How can it be that at the time of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, and moreover—when the evil Titus entered the Kodesh Hakadashim, the keruvim would be in such a format?!

The answer is that although it was a time of terrible destruction, the inner intent of it all was to achieve the revelation of Hashem’s essence—not just “food” and “clothing,” but also “intimacy.”

Returning Collateral

We can now understand the connection between the above seemingly opposite explanations: that of Rashi (that the first possuk of Parshas Pekudei hints to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash due to our sins), and that of the Alter Rebbe (that the same verse alludes to the intimate union between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel).

Both interpretations highlight the inner purpose of the churban and golus. Rashi compares the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash to taking collateral. When a borrower gives collateral, the lender must eventually return the item in the same condition as when he received it. Similarly, the purpose of the churban is so that Hashem will return the Beis Hamikdash—not just as it was when He took it (as with collateral), but even greater and better than before.

The Alter Rebbe adds insight into the nature of the high level that Hashem will “return” to us: we will internalize the revelation of Hashem’s essence, experiencing the intimate bond between Him and His nation.

For further study, see maamar d”h Eileh pekudei 5730.