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Home » Terumah

Terumah: How To Make A Sanctuary

Submitted by on January 30, 2011 – 4:19 amNo Comment | 2,429 views

Four Elements

The tabernacle Moses was commanded to erect comprised the four basic elements, inanimate, vegetative, animate and human. The floor was desert sand, representing the inanimate element. The walls were wooden, representing the vegetative element. The roof was of animal hide, representing the animate element and the people that worshiped therein comprised the human element.

Though Jews have not had a physical temple for nearly two millennia we have always worked to create a sanctuary within our hearts and minds. We do this by reigning in our base impulses and striving for the noble and transcendent. The human temple, like the physical tabernacle, is also composed of four elements, the experiential, emotional, physical and mystical.

We begin by exploring the distinct features of these four elements in the physical realm. The inanimate is static; it has no vitality or growth – it simply is what it is. The vegetable is filled with life; life begins with growth and the tree never stops growing. However, the tree lacks the primary exhibitor of life, which is movement. The tree is immobile; it stands rooted in place. In this sense, the inanimate and the vegetative fall into the same category – neither is animated.

The animal takes us to the next level. In this realm we see symptoms of life that extend beyond growth. The animal moves about, calculates, communicates, enforces its will and generally exhibits vitality. Still even the animal is somewhat restricted in its exploration of life. The human is the true emblem of life. It is not merely a being with life force; it is a living being. We are not only filled with life – we are alive.

The human’s primary distinction is the cognitive and emotional ability to form deep, meaningful and life affirming bonds. These bonds inspire us to effect change; to be thoughtful and considerate of others. It is in these relationships that vitality is truly exhibited. Here we encounter the raw energy of life that transcends its particular investment in the individual. From the abstract standpoint of life all people are equal; each noble and deserving of respect for all are equally alive.

Four Human Dimensions

To bring it to the next level we will explore four dimensions in the human experience. The first is experiential. These are our physical actions as they are; absent from purpose meaning or motivation. The second is emotional. These are the feelings that form motive, influence behavior and drive action as we scheme and devise ways to satisfy our emotional needs.

The third dimension is the intellect. Here we consider the propriety of our actions, determine whether to succumb to emotion and instinct or reign in our passion, assert discipline and exercise control.

The fourth and final dimension is the mystical. The mystical dimension is utterly selfless; it is where we transcend our own narrow interests. Where the emotion and intellect approve of hording and punishing, the mystic within us drives us to generosity and grace. Not because it behooves us, but because it benefits others.

Parallel of Elements and Dimensions

Consider that these four human dimensions parallel the four elements we discussed above. Let us use as our example the experience of nursing a grudge because we have been insulted. Grudges or the inability to forgive often mask an inner pain, such as fear, anger or shame that is born of insecurity. The feeling is charged with intense energy, it is vital and alive, but the things it drives us to do are just actions. The actions are not vested with life or meaning; they are just things that we do.

The first stage is action, where our experience of the grudge is entirely inanimate; we are nursing a grudge and that’s all there is to it. It is premature at this tactile stage to speak of feeling or discernment.

The emotional stage is filled with life. Here we reflect, relive and reignite our pain. This stage, which parallels the vegetative element, is filled with passion; like the tree that grows with time so does our fury and sense of violation. And just like a tree, we are, at this stage, rooted in place. Obsessed with rage and in need of revenge we cannot rise above ourselves and consider forgiveness.

The third stage is cerebral. Here we analyze the situation objectively and evaluate our reaction from the standpoint of logic and propriety. It is here that we conclude that we have succumbed to a base emotion and responded in a flawed fashion. It is here that we can conclude that our rage is a symptom of an inner flaw and choose to seek help.

This stage, paralleling the animate element, grants us mobility. Here we are no longer trapped in anger and grudge; we are finally empowered to let go. how to make a sanctuary - innerstreamhow to make a sanctuary - innerstreamGrudges that we have nursed for decades are finally dissolved. Siblings, with whom we have not conversed in years, are finally forgiven. This is truly an exhibition of life – it is the imposition of discipline over impulse, grace over anger and logic over folly.

However, we have still not crested the summit to reach the highest dimension of all – the mystical, which parallels the human in the four elements we discussed above.how to make a sanctuary - innerstream Here we don’t forgive because it is proper to do so and we don’t seek help because we have identified our inner flaws. Here we forgive because forgiveness is good for others.

Yes, those very others against whom we railed yesterday are now forgiven because it best serves them. Here we truly rise above ourselves and exhibit refinement. It is the purest form of triumph; soul over body, spirit over flesh and the collective G-dly spark over individualistic, self-centered concerns.

Make for Me a Sanctuary

The Torah charges us to make a sanctuary for G-d within our hearts and minds. The tabernacle was comprised of all four elements to teach us that this sanctuary within ourselves must also comprise each of our four levels.

It is not sufficient to control our actions; we must also work to cleanse our hearts. It is not sufficient to let go of rage, it is important to address the causes that stimulate the symptoms and heal the problem permanently. Even this is also not sufficient for even this is done for selfish purpose. The highest form of holiness and nobility is to do what is right because it is right and to follow the truth because it is true.

This is the truest form of holiness. This is the sanctuary in which G-d and human can dwell together.

This essay is based in part on Torah Or p. 43b and Likutei Sichos v. VII p. 107.

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