Parshat Teruma - ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם
By: הרב רונן נויברט
"And let them make Me a Mikdash (sanctuary), that I may dwell among them". This commandment seems to contradict previous pledge of Hashem. "An altar of earth thou shall make to Me... in every place where I...
Rav Ronen Neuwirth - ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם
"And let them make Me a Mikdash (sanctuary), that I may dwell among them". This commandment seems to contradict previous pledge of Hashem. "An altar of earth thou shall make to Me... in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you" (Shemot 20:20). Originally, the שכינה (Divine Presence) was supposed to abide in many places. Why did Hashem decide to "back off" and bind the שכינה to the משכן only?
The Sforno suggests that this settling of the שכינה in one place is in fact a result of the sin of the golden calf, as follows: "It was only during the last forty days (subsequent to the golden calf) that Moshe was commanded regarding the משכן... this is indicated by the earlier verse "...in every place that I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you to bless you." Now they will need כהנים, and this very point that this is in response to the Golden Calf is indicated by the pasuk, "And you shall bring forth Aharon your brother and his sons" (ibid. 28:1.) The tribe of Levi was not chosen to serve until after the golden calf incident, as evidenced in Devarim (10:8)".
According to the Sforno, had Yisrael remained faithful to Hashem there would not have been a necessity for the Mishkan to be built. Even more so, there would have not been any need to the כהונה (priesthood). It was the lack of reliability of Bnei Yisrael that made it necessary to limit the place and manner of worship, because they had demonstrated that they could not deal with an unlimited worship.
According to Chazal, one of the causes for the sin of the golden calf was the ערב רב, those outsiders who joined Bnei Yisrael during the Exodus from Egypt: "And a mixed multitude went up also with them" (Ibid. 12:38). Chazal even blame Moshe for reaching out to the ערב רב. Eventually, the ערב רב seduced Am Yisrael to worship the calf. The golden calf incident proved that we were still not ready to be מקרב the nations. We still have to exert much internal work and in-reach before we are ready to approach others. Therefore the Shechinah was limited to one place on Earth.. G-d doesn't need a place to dwell in. We need the place in order to be able to absorb the influence of the Divine Presence: "ושכנתי בתוכם -...let them make Me a Mikdash, that I may dwell among them". Due to the sin of the golden calf, we can reveal Hashem only through specific holy places and through the Kohanim. Hashem is, of course, everywhere but there are certain places where it is easier for us to feel the Kedusha - ושכנתי בתוכם. Eretz Yisrael is one of the places where it is much easier to find Hashem : "Whoever lives in the Land of Yisrael may be considered to have a God, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no God" (Kethuboth 110b). Though Hashem is everywhere, we are changed by dwelling in Eretz Yisrael. That's exactly the purpose of the Mishkan - to give us the ability to locate and absorb the שכינה.
Indeed, at the end of the days, the שכינה will be spread all over, and accepted by all of humanity: "והיה ה' למלך על כל הארץ" - "And the LORD shall be King over all the earth". Only then, and only in Eretz Yisrael we will be זוכים to see the fulfillment of the prophecy: "כי ביתי בית תפילה יקרא לכל העמים" - "for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples".