The Plural I

Friday, 8 February, 2019 - 11:34 am


Dear Friend,

A happy almost Shabbos to you.

This week's Torah portion begins with the  commandment to build the Mishkan, (Shemos 25:8) "Make a home for me and I will dwell in them".

The classic commentaries and super-commentaries struggle to make sense of the switch from singular to plural in this verse. Should it not have been written, “and I will dwell in it?” 

Allow me to give a sampling of their interpretations:

'Them' is an allusion to the Tabernacle, the Three temples in Jerusalem and the various synagogues and individual homes which serve as a 'safe space' for the sacred in this world.

Rabbi Yeshayahu Horowitz's (1558-1628) magnum opus (best described as 'Pre-Chassidic Chassidic thought') interprets 'them' to mean, every single individual of the nation of Israel. The imposing architecture may be impressive; more impressive though, is an individual making her/himself a 'dwelling place' for Gd's presence with the study of Torah and performance of the Mitzvahs. I should mention that The Rebbe would quote this interpretation quite often.

An Alternative Explanation
May I suggest a third interpretation with a little twist: The human being is so very complex (and even complicated at times.) The book of Tanya begins with an existential question which may cross one's mind,  "Am I essentially a good guy or a bad guy?". The author explains that the answer to this conundrum is not so simple. Wo/man is a hybrid of a holy soul which is a Chelek Eloka Mimal Mamosh - an actual fragment of Gd - and a Nefesh Habahamis - A self serving animal(istic) soul. These two paradoxical forces tethered together create a full circuit and wo/man springs to life. Now, compound that with chemicals and positive and not-so-positive life experiences and alas the gestalt of 'I' might feel like 'We'. Says Almighty Gd: Please allow Me in, to 'feel at home' in whatever role you play- thoughtful daughter, caring sister, loving spouse, dedicated father, no-nonsense employer, brilliant scholar, etcetera. Make Me at home as whomever and wherever you are.

Though this is indeed a monumental task, I bless you and your loved ones in the timeless words of Moses at the grand opening of the Mishkan: “May it be Gd's will that His blessed presence be found in all you do".

Rabbi Shmuel Metzger

PS The upcoming 'Six Great Minds - One Thousand Years Of Jewish Thought' on Tuesday evening will explore the fascinating life and times of the great 'Baal Shem Tov' founder of the Chassidic movement. This class is not to be missed! I know it's after a long day of work...I assure that you will not regret venturing into the cold night to attend this riveting class.

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