This week's portion, Tetzaveh, is a continuation of the theme that began last week discussing the building of the Tabernacle. This was the portable and collapsible sanctuary that the Jewish people traveled with during their 40 years in the desert. Last week, we read of G‑d's command to build the copper altar upon which the animal sacrifices took place. In the end of this week's portion is the command to erect an additional one, the golden altar, upon which will be offered the incense.

These two altars are very different from the rest of the vessels of the tabernacle. They did not receive any spiritual impurity, known in Hebrew at tumaah. All of the other vessels were able to receive this ritualistic impurity; however, the altars could never be made impure.

The Torah is infinite, and has a depth one can never stop analyzing. So, too, this unique law of the altars not receiving impurity can be given a deeper understanding that gives insight into the soul of every Jew.

G‑d's command to build this tabernacle, in addition to its significance as the focal point for communal worship, also directs each and every one of us to establish a "tabernacle" within our hearts. We are all called upon to make ourselves into a sanctuary in which G‑d's light can dwell and be revealed. As in the general tabernacle, where there were multiple vessels utilized ritually to bring about an indwelling of G‑d's presence, so, too, it is with our own personalized tabernacle.

Vessels and Tools

A person also has "vessels and tools" with which we serve G‑d. They are our brain, heart, mouth, hands, feet, etc. The Jewish person is called upon to activate his mind in the learning of Torah; to fill his heart with love and awe of G‑d; to speak with his mouth words of Torah and prayer; to fulfill the mitzvot with his hands; to use his feet to go do a mitzvah, so that all the limbs of our body participate in acts of holiness. In such a way, we actualize the goal of transforming ourselves into a tabernacle for G‑d.

It happens from time to time that our "vessels" become spiritually impure. When we use our mind, emotions and other soul strengths and capacities for inappropriate things, we thereby make them impure. In order to return and rededicate our tabernacle to G‑d, we need to go through the process of teshuvah ("repentance"), which purifies anew the vessels we possess.

However, there is one vessel for which it is impossible to descend into a state of impurity — the altar. The altar, the focal point of the Tabernacle, represents complete submission to G‑d and eradication of an egocentric attitude, as all is consumed by the abounding love of G‑d. As the quintessence of the person's being is revealed, impurity becomes an impossibility. The altar symbolizes the essence of the soul in each and every Jew.

This is the pintele yid, the core point of Judaism, which never loses its purity. It is not even affected by a person's behavior or stream of thought. This innermost, raw sense of being that remains constantly—and always—connected to G‑d demonstrates how a Jew does not want, nor is truly able, to separate from his or her Judaism.