Sanctuaries of All Sizes
The concept of a Sanctuary in the life of our people began with the Divine command we read in this week’s Torah portion: “Make a Sanctuary for Me that I shall dwell amongst them.”
The first Sanctuary was the Mishkan which was inaugurated a year after the Exodus from Egypt. It was a portable structure of gold-covered wooden boards and a ceiling of materials and skins, which served as a Sanctuary for all the years that our ancestors wandered in the wilderness and the early years of their entry into Eretz Yisrael. Stone walls replaced the boards when the Mishkan was established at Shiloh. Almost a millennium after the Exodus the Mishkan gave way to the permanent structure of the Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalayim where it stood for 410 years. The Second Beit Hamikdash, established after the destruction of the First and 70 years of Babylonian Exile, lasted for 420 years until its destruction by the Romans.
Ever since then the synagogue has served as a “Minor Sanctuary”. But there is another sort of Sanctuary as well. In the above-mentioned Divine command the purpose of the Sanctuary is described in terms of “I shall dwell amongst them”. It has therefore been interpreted as meaning that every Jew can serve as a Sanctuary for the Divine Presence to dwell in if he consecrates his life for that purpose.
If all Jews will thus make themselves Sanctuaries we will merit seeing the Third Beit Hamikdash built in our days in a redeemed Israel forever.