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The Shechinah in Our Midst:



Dear Friends,

On the Sabbath of Chanukah, we read the following Divine Promise to the People of Israel regarding the future redemption:
"Sing and be glad, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, proclaimed Hashem. Many nations will join themselves to Hashem on that day, and they will become a people unto Me; and I will dwell in your midst." (Zechariah 2: 14,15)
In the ancient Aramaic translation of our scriptures known as "Targum Yonasan," the words "I will dwell in your midst" are translated as: "I will place My Shechinah in your midst." The Shechinah is to dwell among us, and not just in the Temple. In fact, the purpose of the Temple, states the Torah, is to elevate and sanctify us so that the Shechinah can be in our midst, as it is written: "And they shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8). The verse does not say, "so that I may dwell in it" (the Sanctuary), but "so that I may dwell among them" (Commentary of the Alschich and Malbim).
When the People of Israel built the Sanctuary in the wilderness of Sinai, they were told to light the Menorah with a continuous light before the Ark of the Testimony (Exodus 27:20,21). This was also done in the Temple in Jerusalem. Rabbi Sheshes, in the Talmud, asks the following question regarding the purpose of this light:
"Does He - Hashem - require its light? Surely during the entire forty years in the desert they traveled only by His light. It is, however, to serve as a testimony to all human beings that the Shechinah rests in Israel." (Shabbos 22b)
The light of the Menorah is to represent the Shechinah dwelling in our midst.Why it important for all humanity to know that the Shechinah is found in the midst of the People of Israel? Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that while some religions teach what one has to do in order to come close to God in the next world, the Torah teaches what we need to do in order that God comes close to us in this world. Rabbi Hirsch adds:
"Judaism teaches that the primary dwelling place of the Shechinah is on this earth. God seeks, first of all, to dwell among humankind; He says to the human being: 'They shall make Me a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them.' Let them make of their lives on earth a sanctuary to Me, and then I will dwell in their midst. The task of paving the way for an age when the Kingdom of God will begin again - not just in heaven but here on earth - is to be the mission of Israel... This is also the goal of Torah - the Divine Teaching." (Commentary to Genesis 9:27)
The light of the Menorah is to therefore convey the following message to all human beings: Just as the Shechinah dwells among Israel when they fulfill the Divine teaching, so too the Shechinah will dwell among humankind when they fulfill the Divine teaching.
As we shall explore in future lessons, the Shechinah was fully revealed in the Garden of Eden, where the human being was to live a life of tzedek - justice-love, as it is written: "Hashem God took the human being and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate it and to protect it" (Gen. 2:15). When the human being failed to fulfill this mandate, and was exiled from the Garden, the Shechinah became hidden. She was later revealed to righteous men and women, such as Abraham and Sarah, who dedicated all aspects of their lives to the principle of tzedek. At the final stage of human history, when all human beings will dedicate their lives to tzedek, the Shechinah will be revealed to all humanity. This universal revelation is mentioned in Midrash Leviticus Rabbah (1:14), which refers to the Shechinah as "the glory of Hashem":
"In the present world, the Shechinah is revealed upon individuals; however, in the future that is to come, 'the glory of Hashem will be revealed, and all humankind will see it together' (Isaiah 40:5)."

A Good Chanukah,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen