"Supernatural Holiness"

וַיְהִ֡י בְּיוֹם֩ כַּלּ֨וֹת מֹשֶׁ֜ה לְהָקִ֣ים אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֗ן וַיִּמְשַׁ֨ח אֹת֜וֹ וַיְקַדֵּ֤שׁ אֹתוֹ֙ וְאֶת־כׇּל־כֵּלָ֔יו וְאֶת־הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ וְאֶת־כׇּל־כֵּלָ֑יו וַיִּמְשָׁחֵ֖ם וַיְקַדֵּ֥שׁ אֹתָֽם׃

It was on the day that Moshe finished erecting the Tabernacle that he anointed and sanctified it and all of its utensils, and the Altar and all its utensils, and he anointed them and sanctified them.
Numbers 7:1

by Rabbi Mike Moskowitz

Making something holy is a common occurrence in Judaism. We recite kiddush on the shabbat and festivals, describe marriage as kiddushin, and frame blessings over commandments by acknowledging that we are sanctified – asher kidishanu – through them. Every action, and inaction, that is informed by our consciousness of the Divine also sanctifies G-d’s name, creating a kiddush HaShem.

Heaven and Earth are not geographic locations but separate domains that require effort and intention to connect. While building the Tabernacle, Moses wanted its material structure to transcend the physical limits of nature and be elevated to a level of expanded spirituality. The only difference between the miraculous and the mundane is what we have become accustomed to as “normal.”  The Tabernacle becomes a place where these forces meet and maintain a balance.

Our tradition provides us with many reminders of the unity of the Divine and with them the opportunity for connection. For example, twice a day we close our eyes and recite the shema, declaring “Hear, O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One.” By acknowledging the source of everything, we are also becoming one with it.

There is an interesting exemption to this daily obligation. The Mishnah1 teaches that on the night of one’s wedding it is unnecessary to engage in this verbal ritual. Rashi explains G-d’s statement2 that “it is not good that Adam be alone” by saying that “people shouldn’t say that G-d is singular (יָחִיד – yuchid) in the higher realms, alone without a counterpart and this [Adam] is equally singular in the lower realms [as a god].” This is one of the interpretations for why the room where the newlyweds are first alone together is called the cheder yichud, the room of oneness, because the partnership itself is a testament to G-d’s oneness.3

On a deeper level, intimate relationships bring our attention to the Divine choreography of match making which the Rabbis make evident is no easy task. The Talmud compares the degree of difficulty that G-d’s experiences partnering people together, to the parting of the Red Sea.4 It brings a proof text from Psalms as a support: God makes the solitary individuals – יְחִידִ֨ים yechidim – dwell in a house.

The sea splitting, as part of the miraculous exodus from Egypt, was just as much a manifestation of the Divine Will as the moments before and after. The difficulty is in appreciating the Oneness of G-d in what appears to be the natural order of things. What is more natural than folks falling in love? It is particularly in the coming together of a marriage that we can appreciate all of the many things that needed to align for the relationship to have been formed. Bearing witness to the Divine intervention is itself a process of sanctification.

The Torah describes Moses’s completion of the Tabernacle, on the seventh day of the inauguration, as “כַּלּ֨וֹת – kalos”. Rashi, quoting the Midrash, says that the word is written this way because “Israel was like a bride (kalah) who enters the marriage canopy.” According to many, this is the source for the sheva brachos, seven days of celebration after a wedding.6 Seven is significant here because it represents the natural order, like seven days in the week7 acting as a bridge to the supernatural.

Moses is modeling the work of constructing holiness by inviting and welcoming the Divine Presence as part of our communal structures. We become co-creators, and a unifying force of all creation, when safe and sacred spaces are so universally experienced that they are perceived as nothing extraordinary.

1. Berachos 2:5.

2.  Genesis 2:18

3.  See Isha Bracha.

4.  Sotah 2a “אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: וְקָשִׁין לְזַוְּוגָן כִּקְרִיעַת יַם סוּף”.

5.  Psalms 68:7.

6.   See Lehoras Nosson. Also, לְהָקִ֣ים אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֗ן is an allusion to Leah who also had sheva brachos.

7.  See Maharal for many other examples.

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