A Tidbit of Torah – Parshat Shmini / Shabbat Hachodesh 5784

Moses said: “This is what the Lord has commanded that you do, that the Presence of the Lord may appear to you.”       Vayikra / Leviticus 9:6

Our teacher, ha-Chozeh MiLublin, the Seer of Lublin(1), observes that the dedication of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) seems to create a differing set of expectations on the part of God and the Israelites. He writes:

The Israelites deeply desired having the Mishkan so as to ensure God’s Presence remain in their midst. However, the Holy One, so to speak, desired that the Divine Presence reside literally within the Israelites, within the souls and within the bodies of every Israelite.

The Israelites are confident that the existence of the Mishkan, and the sacrificial cult performed by the kohanim within it, would maintain God’s presence amongst the people. Recognizing that the daily regimen of presenting offerings and kindling the menorah (candelabrum), was done by the priestly caste on behalf of the nation, the Seer of Lublin felt that the rest of the Israelites seemed eager to outsource the task.

This is especially problematic for the Seer of Lublin who stresses that the divine desire was less focused on the cultic behavior and more concerned with establishing a deep and enduring relationship with each member of the community. Our teacher reads the verse above as addressing this discrepancy.

Thus, the Torah has Moshe say, “This is what the Lord has commanded that you do”, the Torah and the mitzvot; these will result in the appearance of the Divine Presence, and you will not have need for any Mishkan.

The Seer of Lublin’s assertion is that the Israelites can evoke the Divine Presence by their own individual behavior, behavior resonant with God’s ethical expectations. While ostensibly an explanation of the biblical text, the Seer of Lublin is offering reassurance to the Jews of his era even as he challenges them to elevate their actions. The Jews, he asserts, are not dependent on the Mishkan and its sacrificial rites to evoke God’s presence, nor should they depend on the synagogue and those engaged in running  the institution, rather encountering the Holy One is achieved by climbing the rungs of holiness, one mitzvah at a time.

Shabbat Shalom –
Rabbi David M. Eligberg

1 Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak HaLevi Horowitz, known as “the Seer of Lublin“, ha-Chozeh MiLublin (c. 1745 – August 15, 1815) was a Hasidic rebbe from Poland. A leading figure in the early Hasidic movement, he became known as the “seer” or “visionary” due to his purported ability to gaze across great distance by supernatural means.

The compilation of his works, entitled Torat HaChozeh MiLublin, presents his commentaries arranged alphabetically according to topic and according to the weekly Torah portion.