Torah Thought for the Week

Sinai or Sanctuary?



And in the beginning, G‑d was homeless, and so G‑d asked His people to set Him up with some digs. Where does it say that? Well, nowhere, actually. But it does say that G‑d instructed Moses to tell the people, “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”

Now the question is, was G‑d really homeless? Wasn’t He already dwelling with the people? Why, it was just the other week that we read of the revelation at Sinai, where G‑d came down from heaven to earth. So why suddenly the need for a Sanctuary for Him?

Sign Up for E-News

The answer is that there is a fundamental difference between Sinai and the Sanctuary. Sinai represents a revelation thrust upon the people from above. G‑d initiated and activated that encounter. In this experience, the Jewish people were somewhat passive. All the thunder and lightning, physically and spiritually, came at them from on high.

The Sanctuary, however, had to be built by the people themselves. They had to take the initiative. From the fundraising campaign to collect the raw materials needed for the sanctuary, down to the nuts and bolts of construction, the Mishkan was a human-made edifice.

At Sinai the heavens opened for the greatest sound-and-light show on earth, leaving a nation mesmerized and awe-inspired. But they themselves were passive recipients of this unique, never-to-be-repeated gift from above.

To build a Sanctuary took a whole building campaign. Men and women, young and old, everybody rolled up their sleeves. It took weeks and months of hard labor, meaningful contributions by every individual, planning and programming, designing and then actually building a holy house for G‑d. We made it happen. And thereby, it was the people who brought G‑d down to earth.

Apparently it was important for the Jews to appreciate the value G‑d attaches to self-help and to DIY projects of a spiritual nature. It is not good enough to sit around waiting for the extraordinary revelations, those once-in-a-lifetime supernal visits the good L‑rd might bestow upon us. It is necessary for us to create the infrastructure, to take the building blocks in our hands and “make me a Sanctuary.”

To put it simply, are we waiting for G‑d, or is G‑d waiting for us? Who makes the next move?

I met a guy not long ago and, as often happens to rabbis, the discussion turned to religion. He was pretty blunt about it. “Not for me, rabbi,” he said. “If G‑d wanted me to be religious, he’d have made sure I was born in Bnei Brak, or at least into a religious family here.” I told him he reminded me of the comedian who had a terrible fear of flying, and argued that “if G‑d intended man to fly, he’d have given him wings—or at least made it easier to get to the airport!” So he says, “If G‑d wanted me to be an angel, he'd have given me wings too.”

The fact is, G‑d did give us wings. That’s what Sinai was all about. He gave us a dose of revelation, of spiritual shock-and-awe that has saturated us with an eternal capacity to fly high, to touch the divine. But those were just the tools; now we have to learn to fly. We may have been endowed with the potential to develop our connection to G‑dliness, but after Sinai it’s up to us to make it happen and to actually bring our innate power to the fore.

True revelation is rare. While there certainly are those special moments when we witness the unmistakable presence of G‑d in our lives, we cannot wait for lightning to strike. We need to build our personal sanctuaries for G‑d in order to embrace Him and bring Him into our homes and families.

The Rebbe of Kotzk was once asked by his teacher, “Where is G‑d?” He answered, “Wherever you let Him in.”

The Union County Torah Center - Chabad is a Jewish educational outreach center and synagogue serving Union County with Shabbat & Holiday services, Hebrew School & youth programs &  Adult Education. The center is not membership oriented and is open to the public. 

Rabbi Levi Block can be reached at

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Information on Parking and Traffic for Saturday's March for Our Lives in Union

March 23, 2018

UNION, NJ – Several hundred people or more are expected to participate in the Union County March for Our Lives event on Saturday morning in Union.

Students, teachers, parents, clergy and public officials from all over Union County will be walking from Burnet Middle School to Town Hall in an anti-gun violence march.

Parking will be available in the following ...

Synopsis of Westfield Board of Education Meeting on March 19

March 22, 2018

Following the board announcements, I noted the increased police presence at each of our ten schools, thanking the town and police department for their efforts.  I also noted that we’ve been working on updating our crisis communication plan in light of today’s climate of instant communication.

Board president Gretchan Ohlig thanked the mayor and police chief for working with ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM


March for Our Lives - Westfield

Government Law & Justice

Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM

Burent Middle School , Union

Union County Wide - March for Our Lives

Government Law & Justice


Sun, March 25, 11:00 AM

Shackamaxon Country Club, Scotch Plains

Hear Our Voices: MemoryCare Plays

Health & Wellness

Westfield Police Blotter: More Than $2K Worth of Items Reported Stolen from Business, & More

March 21, 2018

March 11, 2018 6:42 p.m.

Marion Bethea, age 56, of Roselle, was arrested on the strength of an outstanding warrant for her arrest from Columbia Municipal Court in the amount of $500 pursuant to a motor vehicle stop. Subject was processed and released on recognizance.


March 16, 2018 11:16 a.m.

Blas Barquin, age 34, of Cranford, NJ, was arrested on the strength of an outstanding ...

Enjoy 5 Engaging Films at the Spring Jewish Film Festival of Central NJ

March 22, 2018

The Jewish Film Festival of Central NJ is pleased to present five films this spring at the Rialto NewVision Theater, 250 East Broad Street in Westfield. Screenings begin April 10 and run through May 7. All films start at 7:30 p.m.

We begin the spring series with The Testament on Tuesday, April 10. In The Testament, an uncompromising Holocaust researcher uncovers highly classified evidence that ...

Staying On Top

Some people are bulldozers. They move mountains, conquer countries, achieve the seemingly impossible. But then when there are no more mountains to climb, they falter. Routines, maintenance and sustainability are not their strong points. They respond to excitement and challenge, not to the uneventful, monotonous daily grind.

The title word of this week's Parshah, Tzav, means ...

White Standard Poodle Missing from 700 Block of Belvidere Ave. in Plainfield

A Plainfield neighbor in the 700 block of Belvidere Ave. is missing Chanel, her standard white poodle, who ran out the door and was last seen near Leland and Cushing avenues toward Union County College on Wednesday evening.

Chanel is not wearing a collar or tags, and is not micro-chipped.  She has been recently groomed and weighs about 36 pounds.  She is friendly, but may not come if ...

'Trying' explores age, youth and points of history in poignant production

‘Trying’ explores youth, age and points of history in poignant production

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The George Street Playhouse presents an engrossing, two-character play based on the real life of Francis Biddle, former Attorney General.

Biddle, a Harvard educated lawyer, served under Franklin Roosevelt and later Harry Truman during the Nuremberg Tribunal. His ...

Can I Change My Partner?

March 21, 2018

Couples oftentimes look to change the “other.” “If only” the other would make these changes, or do as I say, our relationship would be great. We tend to focus on the other. We tend to focus on changing the other. We tend to focus on the other’s negative behavior. Couples like to report what their spouse/partner is doing and how they are ...

16 Homes Sold Last Week in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside & Cranford

Sixteen homes sold last week, March 11 to March 18, 2018, in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside and Cranford:*


TOWN        ADDRESS                  STYLE           RMS    ...

Charitable Spirit Alive and Well in Westfield Public Schools

Students, staff and parents in Westfield Public Schools continue the district’s long tradition of helping others both in and outside of the community, with a number of students recently recognized for their efforts.

Fifteen Westfield High School juniors and sophomores were honored by the Community Food Bank of New Jersey for collecting more than 5,000 pounds of food items for families in ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 13

On this episode of AtlantiCast, new clinical studies in the fields of cardiology and immunotherapy, national and statewide recognitions for Atlantic Health System medical centers and the inaugural AtlantiCast Collab Challenge!


Financially Savvy Charitable Giving: Donor-Advised Funds

Americans are known to be philanthropic, with an estimated 83% donating to charitable causes. Making the donation convenient and tax-effective is a win-win for both charities and those with a generous heart. Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are a simplistic funding structure available to those with both small and large charitable giving pots.  

Mechanics of Donor Funds

DAFs can be set up ...


Kathleen Marie Christian (nee Helmstetter), age 73 of Surf City, NJ, passed away peacefully at home ...
Read more

Suspended Hillsborough HS Athletic Director Charged with Theft

March 19, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ — Suspended Hillsborough High School Athletic Director Michael Fanizzi has been arrested and charged with the theft of $10,704 in athletic event receipts over a four-year period from 2013-2017, according to Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson.

Fanizzi, 53, a resident of Conover Way in Hillsborough who had been athletics director for 14 years, had been ...