Dealing With Adversity – Making Oneself into a Beis Hamikdash

In last week’s parashah, Ki Sisah, Bnei Yis­rael sinned by worshipping the Golden Calf, falling from their former lofty level and causing Hashem to distance Himself from them. There­upon, Moshe Rabbeinu relocated his tent outside the camp.

Moshe’s tent was known as the Ohel Moed, the Tent of Meeting, and the same name by which the Mishkan was later known. The Mishkan was known as the Ohel Moed because the Shechinah rested there and would “meet” with Bnei Yisrael.

Moshe’s tent was likewise a place of meeting. Although Hashem had removed Himself from the people, any individual could seek the dvar Hashem there through His servant Moshe, as the Torah tells us, “Kol mevakesh Hashem, whoever sought Hashem would go out.” (Shemos 33:7).

The Baal Haturim (quoting the Midrash) derives from the passuk directing the people to seek Moshe that to learn Torah one must be will­ing to go into exile. Indeed, in Pirkei Avos (4:18) Rabi Nehorai tells us, “Exile yourself to a place of Torah and do not say it will come after you.”

Many young people did just that. They left the comfort of their homes and went far away to learn Torah. In some cases, there were no yeshivos in their home community; in others there were but there were better opportunities elsewhere.

This phenomenon has become commonplace today as children worldwide leave home to study in Lakewood, Eretz Yisrael and elsewhere. But several decades ago, it was the exception.

But perhaps we can extrapolate the Baal Haturim’s comment. Sometimes one needs to “go into exile” in a different sense for Torah or another facet of Yiddishkeit — not in terms of geographical location but by overcoming an obstacle. A person wishes to attend a shiur but reasons, “The time or venue is inconvenient, they don’t have refreshments, etc. Such impedi­ments to growth in ruchniyus should be viewed as obstacles to be overcome, not explained away. (Naturally, we are not talking about when health or other important issues are of concern.)


The Mishkan has been the focus of the last sev­eral parshiyos. The components of the Mishkan have been compared by the commentators to a person (see Nesivos Shalom, Shemos, p. 237). The Kodesh Hakodashim represents the mind while the Heichal symbolizes the heart. The curtains were dyed red to simulate the skin. The purpose of the Mishkan is to stir us to elevate ourselves and make ourselves into a Mishkan.

The Torah tells us in Parashas Vayakhel, “Every man whose heart inspired him came, and everyone whose spirit motivated him brought the portion of Hashem for the work of the Tent of Meeting (i.e. the Mishkan), for all its labors and the sacred vestments. (35:21).

The Ohr Hachaim explains these two cat­egories of benefactors. The first is comprised of those whose spirits motivated them to give will­ingly albeit according to their ability. The second, higher level is that of those whose hearts inspired them to give beyond their capacity in their love for this endeavor, in this case, the Mishkan that is Hashem’s abode.

In Klal Yisrael, everyone can bring something to the table, whether via resources or talents. It may be delivering a stimulating class or setting up the room for the class and filling the coffee urn. It may be modeling how to handle hardships in a given area or an inspirational or spiritual sense.

A noted askan addressing an event held by an organization that provides resources to assist childless couples mused, “We think we are doing the couples a favor by raising funds. But what about what they do for us? Certainly, we daven that each one merit children. But till that hap­pens their pain provides shemirah and zechuyos to Klal Yisrael.” I asked a certain Rav if that con­cept applied to people facing other challenges and he replied affirmatively. Knowing that there is a purpose to suffering makes it easier to bear.


This Shabbos, 29 Adar I, is the 38th yahrtzeit of Hagaon Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l. Rav Yaakov was known for his many contributions to Klal Yisrael; one was the emphasis he placed on derech eretz. He would stand for every Rav even when he was in his 90s. He would stand for interns in the hospital; “They are sheluchei mitzvah,” he explained. Hence, he was known for his genius in sizing up situations and investing them with meaning.

Rav Yaakov was once in a medical office where among the other people waiting was a non-observant little boy. Rav Yaakov took a ball and started to play catch with him. He later explained his actions to someone: “I realized I would not be able to communicate with him. In this way, I left him with a pleasant recollection of a frum Yid.”

It should behoove us to learn from Rav Yaakov’s example and use our hearts and minds — as well as our creativity — to make a difference in the world. We thereby spread some of the light of the Shechinah to others as well as ourselves

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper as well as an inspirational speaker on various topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at

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