1. Private and Public Sanctuaries. In1 Parshas Terumah, which was read last Shabbos when today’s bridegroom was called to the Reading of the Torah, it is written:2 “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them bring for Me an offering... of gold and silver and copper... And they shall make Me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.” The Children of Israel were thus commanded to take physical materials and from them to make a sanctuary, in which G‑d promises to cause His Presence to abide: “I will dwell among them.”

Just as this applies to the sanctuary in the wilderness and to the Beis HaMikdash, it also applies to a synagogue and to a house of study, for this, too, is called “a miniature sanctuary.”3

It also applies to the private sanctuary of every individual Jew. This is hinted at in the wording of the verse,“I will dwell among them.”As the commentators note, “The verse does not say ‘I will dwell in it (besocho),’ but ‘I will dwell among them (besocham)’ — within every individual.”4 Thus, whenever one builds a Jewish homethat is to become “an everlasting edifice,”344 one must take physical materials and transform them into a sanctuary for G‑d.

2. The Power is in the Building Materials. What empowers a person to make a sanctuary for G‑d out of physical materials? It may be suggested that the answer is hinted at in the above-quoted words, ויקחו לי תרומה — “and let them bring for Me an offering.”

The following explanation appears in Tanya:. Ch. 47. “This is like the comment of the Zohar5 on the verse, ‘and let them bring for Me an offering.’ [The Zohar continues:] (The words veyikchu li [here translated ‘and let them bring for Me’] actually means ‘to take Me’ [that is, to ‘take’ G‑d, so to speak].. The Zohar (III, 179a) interprets the word תרומה (terumah — “offering”) as referring to the Torah, inasmuch as it is a composite of the word תורה (Torah) and the letter mem, alluding to the Torah that was given after Moshe Rabbeinu’s 40-day sojourn on the mountain. (The numerical value of mem is 40.) The Zohar goes on to explain that through terumah, through Torah, Jews are enabled to “take Me” — to “take” G‑d, so to speak. The verse should hence have read ‘[Me] and an offering,’ except that both are one and the same.”) That is, the Torah (alluded to by the word terumah351) and G‑d (alluded to by the word li) are truly one.

True, the gold and silver and copper and the other 13 or 15 listed items6 [that comprised the terumah] are physical materials. In view of the above, however, they are also “one and the same” with the Holy One, blessed be He, because initially, “the Essence of the Shechinah abided in the lower realms.”7 This is why they can be made into a sanctuary for G‑d — for all that is needed is merely to reveal their true identity, which is presently hidden.

However, only the Jewish people are able to accomplish this, as it is written, “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them bring for Me an offering.” Though the physical materials are intrinsically one with G‑d, and all that is needed is to reveal this latent identity, this can be done only by the souls of Israel, for it is to those souls that G‑d, in His very Essence,8 made Himself accessible in a manner that made it possible to “take” Him. In the words of Tanya,349“it is as if He gave us His very self, as it were.” This is why the souls of Israel can reveal the power of G‑d’s Essence that is present in physical things.9

This is analogous to a concept recently discussed10 with regard to the command beginning “If you will acquire a Hebrew bondman,”11 which is addressed [on a mystical level] to Moshe Rabbeinu. His task is to draw down Daas, [a knowledge of G‑d that leads to connectedness,] into the souls of the Jewish people — and this is possible only because Daas is already innate in their spiritual root. All that is needed is to bring it from latency to revelation, but this can be accomplished only by Moshe Rabbeinu, by virtue of his unique connection with that level of Divine service.

3. The Blueprint Takes Shape. My purpose is not merely to expound abstract concepts, but to see them translated into actual avodah.

The obligation to build a sanctuary for G‑d out of physical materials was explicitly written in the Torah long, long ago. Moreover, everyone already knows that this command also relates to the personal sanctuary within every individual Jew. Likewise, people also know by now how the Zohar understands the two words li and terumah (lit., “for Me an offering”) as alluding to one and the same thing.351 Nevertheless, the Alter Rebbe had to write it in Tanya, and our predecessors, the Rebbeim, had to explain it all, culminating in the above-quoted teaching that “the Essence of the Shechinah abided in the lower realms.”

Only when this is accomplished will the words of Moshe Rabbeinu thousands of years ago be fulfilled, with the actual realization of the command that “they shall make Me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.”