In parshat Terumah, we are given the mitzvah of making a holy place for G‑d. G‑d says, "And you should make for Me (li) a Temple and I will dwell in them."1 In general, this refers to the different Mishkans2 that the Jews had and then the great Temples that stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

This brings up several questions: We read in the Sifri,3 "Every place it says li [‘for Me’], it will last forever ... About the Temple, He says, 'And you should make for Me (li) a Temple.'" The Midrash Rabbah4 says, "Every place it says li, it will never move, not in this world, and not in the world to come." The Midrash then lists the Temple as something that is everlasting, as it says, "And you should make li a Temple." But the Mishkans are gone, and the Temples were destroyed. How could the sages say that it will last forever?

The verse also seems to be grammatically incorrect. First, it says, "And you should make for Me a Temple," and then it says, "And I will dwell in them." Shouldn't it say, "And I will dwell in it?" What is the meaning of dwelling in them? And how can we do this mitzvah today, when we don't have the Temple?

There are different explanations as to what the everlasting component of this mitzvah is.

Some say5 that it refers to the holiness of the Temple. They explain that the place where the Temple stood retains its holiness forever. According to the Rambam,6 even though the walls of the Temple no longer stand, we could still bring offerings there. This is because the holiness remains.7

Others say that parts of the Temple are hidden in the ground of the Temple Mount, so it is actually still there.Others say8 that parts of the Temple are hidden in the ground of the Temple Mount, so it is actually still there.

The difficulty with these answers is that they only explain how the Temples still exist, but they don't explain how the Mishkans still exist.

Another difficulty with these answers is that the simple meaning of the Sifri and the Midrash refer to the physical Temple, not the spiritual holiness. If it is buried, then we don't experience the physical Temple. So what are the Sifri and the Midrash referring to?

The Rambam9 learns the mitzvah of building the Temple from the words, "And you should make for Me a Temple." This is despite the fact that the actual verse was said about the Mishkan in the desert. The Kesef Mishnah10 explains that when the Rambam mentions this mitzvah, he is referring to all the Mishkans and Temples. Since the Mishkan of the desert is included, it stands to reason that this mitzvah applies even to the lands outside of Israel. In his Book of Mitzvot,11 the Rambam refers back to the Sifri and writes, "And they said, every time it says li, it means that it exists always." In other words, this mitzvah is a constant mitzvah, for all time. And because it says li regarding the mitzvah of building a Temple, it means that this mitzvah is an obligation at all times and in all places where Jews find themselves, even outside the Land of Israel.

This is also the implication of the Midrash,12 commenting on the book of Yechezkel. G‑d said to Yechezkel, "just because my children are placed in exile, should the building of My house be interrupted? Tell them to occupy themselves with reading about the construct of the house in Torah, and in the merit of reading about it ... I will consider it as if they occupy themselves with the building of the house." So learning about the Temple is as if you are building it.

However, with all that was mentioned above, it would seem that we should be able to do this mitzvah physically. How can one physically do this mitzvah today?

What is this mitzvah about? The Rambam13 says, "it is a positive commandment to build a house for G‑d that is ready to be used to bring offerings in it..." In the times of the Temple, our service to G‑d was done by bringing offerings on the altar. Today, it is done through Torah study, prayer, and doing acts of kindness. But the mitzvah remains the same, to build a place to serve G‑d.

How is this done? Allow me to share two possible ways.

In the book of Yechezkel, it says, "I have become for them as a minor Temple."14 The Talmud15 says, "These are the houses of gathering [synagogues] and houses of study."

The Zohar16 says about the verse, "And you should make for Me a Temple," that every synagogue is called a Temple. Some use the words of the Zohar as proof that building a synagogue is included in the mitzvah of "And you should make for Me a Temple."

The Maharik17 says, "It is proper to compare the donations to a synagogue to the donations for the construction of the Mishkan, because our rabbis, of blessed memory, commonly compared the synagogue to the Temple..."

Although the Zohar and the Maharik speak of the synagogue, it clearly means houses of study as well. Indeed, the Talmud lists them both, saying that the minor Temples "are the houses of gathering and houses of study."

So the first way is to build or donate towards the construction or improvement of a synagogue or house of study.

The second way is to set up a designated place in your home to serve G‑d. It should have a bookshelf with Torah books, a table for study, and a tzedakah (charity) box, and that becomes the place you go to study Torah, pray, and give charity in your home.

Children can get involved, by making their room or their part of their room into a place to serve G‑d. Children can also get involved, by making their room or their part of their room into a place to serve G‑d. Having their own Torah books, siddur (prayer book) and tzedakah box.

Why specifically these three things, Torah, prayer and doing kindness? Because these three things happened regularly at the Temple.

Torah: The Temple was home to the tablets of the Ten Commandments and a Torah (in the Ark in the Holy of Holies) and the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court, which was the foremost Torah academy in the world.

Service: The sacrifices that were brought up on the altar were the main service in the Temple, and our daily prayers are in the place of those sacrifices. Also, aside from it being the central place to pray, it is the place where all of our prayers travel through, on the way up to G‑d.

Kindness: The Temple had a special table called the Shulchan, an item that brought G‑d's blessing of sustenance to the world. But the Temple also had a special room18 where people could secretly give tzedakah, and the poor could come and take for their needs, all done discreetly.

There is another way to make a Temple for G‑d. Please allow me to take you to a deeper place.

In Kabbalistic texts,19 it is taught that, "And you should make for Me a Temple, and I will dwell in them," means, in every single Jewish person. We each have within us spiritually, everything that was in the Mishkan. Just as the Mishkan had panels and coverings, so do we. Just as the Mishkan had vessels in it, so do we.

To make a Temple for G‑d, we have to mirror what is found above. Above, there are two types of lights. There is the surrounding light, which is infinite, and there is the inner light that fills the realms according to their respective natures. The panels and coverings represent and draw down the surrounding light, while the vessels represent and draw down the inner light.

We can be a Temple for G‑d and draw these lights as well. We can do it in two ways.

There are two ways of serving G‑d. The first is above our understanding—you do it just because it is G‑d's will. Since it is above your understanding, it draws the infinite surrounding light. And then there is serving G‑d through understanding. Since it is according to your understanding, it draws the inner light, which is limited according to your ability to comprehend.

The Talmud20 tells us that when Moses transmitted the commandment of making the Mishkan, he first taught about the vessels, the Ark, Menorah, and Shulchan, then he taught about the coverings and the panels. Betzalel, who was in charge of building the Mishkan, said to Moshe, "It is the custom of man, to first build a house, and then put furniture in it. Perhaps G‑d told you [to build] the Mishkan [the coverings and the panels and then] the Ark and the vessels." Moshe responded in the affirmative, "you were in the shadow of G‑d21 and you know."

Just as with the Mishkan, the panels and coverings were followed by the vessels, so too should one initially employ the service which is above understanding, and only after, serve G‑d through understanding.

Another way of understanding this is that doing mitzvot which are done outside of you, draws the surrounding light while learning Torah, which you internalize and is limited to your ability to comprehend, draws the inner light.

Since we are all G‑d's Temple, the Temple is everlasting. The everlasting component of the person as a Temple is not only in time but also in the quality of our service to G‑d. We should serve G‑d with such intensity, that it stays forever strong.

According to the Rambam,22 the mitzvah of building the Temple is an obligation for both men and women. And in Avot D'Rebbi Natan,23 it says that children also brought donations to build the Mishkan. So this is a mitzvah for men, women and children.

Since I celebrate my birthday this week, I will connect this teaching to the idea of a birthday.

From the moment we were born, we were already chosen to be a home for G‑d. G‑d wants everyone to be a Temple. That means that G‑d wants to live in every single one of us. In other words, the moment we were born, we were already chosen to be a home for G‑d. And this is one of the things we celebrate on our birthday.24

May we all—men, women and children—make a Temple for G‑d. This will surely bring the third and everlasting Temple, that is already built and will come down from above,25 with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.26