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Worth The While

G-d spoke to Moses, saying… Place the Levites in charge of the Sanctuary, its furnishings, and all that pertains to it… when the Sanctuary is moved, the Levites shall take it down, and when the Sanctuary encamps, the Levites shall set it up… (1:48-51)


Not only the tribe of Levi, but also any man of all the inhabitants of the earth whose mind has enlightened him and whose spirit has moved him to set himself aside to stand before G-d to serve Him, to worship Him, to know G-d and walk justly, and he cast from his neck the yoke of the many calculations that men seek - also he has become sanctified, a holy of holies, and G-d shall be his portion and his lot for all eternity… just as the priests and the Levites.

- Maimonides


In the summer of 1955 a young man wrote the Lubavitcher Rebbe of his plans to make a short trip to a certain city. In his reply, the Rebbe urged him to utilize the opportunity to exert a positive influence on the local Jewish population.

During their wanderings in the Sinai Desert, the Rebbe explained, the Jewish people constructed the Sanctuary, a portable house of worship which they set up at each of their encampments. The Sanctuary was a formidable structure, consisting of towering gold-plated wall sections, layers of embroidered tapestries, a large wall enclosing courtyard set up with posts, stakes and hundreds of feet of fabric, and many other components and furnishings - all described in minute detail in the Torah.1 A work crew of several thousands of Levites were involved in the unloading and assembling the Sanctuary at each camp and its dismantling and loading onto carts when the Divine command would come to move on.

A cloud, representing the presence of G-d, would hover over the Sanctuary. When the cloud would rise, this was Divine signal to break camp. As the Torah relates, "By the word of G-d the children of Israel would journey, and by the word of G-d they would camp; as long as the cloud rested over the Sanctuary they would camp… when the cloud tarried long over the Sanctuary for many days, they kept the charge of G-d and would not journey. At times, the cloud would be for [only] a few days on the Sanctuary… at times, [only] from evening to morning… whenever it would rise, they journeyed".2

Yet even at their shortest encampment, the entire Sanctuary was set up - down to its every last component and fixture - to serve as the 'meeting point' with the Almighty, if only for a single day. "You, too," concluded the Rebbe, "when you arrive at your destination, should utilize every free moment to reach out to our fellow Jews and to bring to them the wellsprings of Torah, regardless of the length of time that you plan to stay."


FOOTNOTES

1. Exodus chapters 18-20.
2. Numbers 9:17-22.

 

 


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