Rabbi Mayer Twersky

The Quest for Sanctity

"Speak to the children of Israel that they bring me an offering: from every man whose heart prompts him to give you shall take my offering...and let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them" (1)

The construction of the Mishkan is characterized by a profound dialectic. On the one hand, building the Mishkan constitutes a Mitzvah - unconditionally mandatory. On the other hand, the Torah stipulates that contributions for the building of the Mishkan be voluntary, an expression of nedivus lev (heartful devotion).

A similar paradox characterizes the building of the Beis Hamikdash. On the one hand, building the Beis Hamikdash is mandated (2). On the other hand, this mitzvah entails a spirit of volunteerism in that we must first arouse ourselves to initiate the search for the precise location which Hakadosh Baruch Hu has designated for the Mikdash. "There shall you seek Him, at His dwelling, and there shall you come" (3), only subsequently is the precise location prophetically confirmed.

A profound religious principle underlies these paradoxes. Surely, we are commanded to seek holiness, to be holy, to induce the shechina to dwell in our midst. However, it is impossible to attain kedusha if we act merely from a sense of obligation. To attain kedusha, one must yearn for it. One must be propelled by a spiritual volunteerism. Accordingly, the mitzvah of "let them make me a sanctuary" requires nedivus ha-lev.

Although ensconced within the mitzvos of building the Mishkan and Beis Hamikdash, this religious principle carries vitally important implications and far-reaching ramifications for all of Torah because the telos of all of Torah is kedusha (4). Thus our attitude towards Torah must be - this is a theme often sounded by my father zt"l - voluntaristic; "what does the Torah want?" ought to be our operative question and not "how far can I advance my own agenda without trampling upon the Torah?"


  1. Shemos 25:2,8
  2. Vide Shanhedrin 20b.
  3. Devarim 12:5. Vide Ramban ad loc. Also Ramban to Bamidbar 16:21
  4. Hence, according to Rambam, the imperative of "kedoshim t'hiyu" is not enumerated as a specific commandment because it is an overarching, encompassing goal of Torah. Vide Sefer ha-Mitzvos Shoresh 4.

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