The inspiration never lasts.
We’ve all experienced the excitement that leads to a new commitment and the challenge in keeping it going: A daily exercise regimen and Spanish lessons are two of my own that have recently cooled off. So when the Jewish nation stood at Mount and experienced the excitement and inspiration of a national divine revelation, their passionate commitment to the Torah and its ideals was to be expected. Yet, even if they didn’t realize it, God knew it was only a matter of time until it wore off. It is in this context that we should understand God’s instruction in the Torah portion of Terumah:
“And they shall make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:5)
Following the inspiration of the giving of the Torah God provided them with the solution even before they encountered the problem: He told them to create an actual location where the divine presence would continue to be available to them and motivate them to fulfill their mission. If the solution to the problem of feeling God’s presence on a daily basis is to build and maintain a sanctuary, then where are we today?
Without a holy sanctuary in Jerusalem, where can we find the divine presence?
Apparently, with the very same commandment (mentioned above) God prepared us for our current situation:
“The verse does not say ‘Make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell in it ‘ rather, it says ‘Make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell in them’ – in each and every one of you”.
According to this Rabbinic commentary, God was telling us that even if there comes a time when we don’t have a formal sanctuary radiating with the divine presence, we can still find it in the depths of our own heart and in the heart of another. The only condition is that we work at creating it.
Fortunately, in this case it is not a building project, it is more like gardening; revealing the inherent Godliness within ourselves and then seeing it in others.
It is there that you will find God. It is no accident that after the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE, Rabbi Akiva focused our attention and declared:
“Love your fellow as yourself – This is the Torah’s most important principle.”