Moving the Mountain

The Jewish people experienced a unique event at Mt. Sinai.  Hashem spoke to an entire people and elevated every member of the nation, at least momentarily, to the level of prophecy.  How could the Jewish people preserve, to the greatest possible degree, that connection to Hashem and the clear perception of His presence for all time?  Our Sages answer, that building the Mishkan, the portable Temple, in the desert was really the construction of a portable Mt. Sinai.  The Torah records that Hashem commanded the Jewish people to build a sanctuary so that the Divine Presence would always be among them:

“And they shall make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell in their midst.”

The sanctuary would facilitate the continuity of the revelation and communication that took place at Mt. Sinai. Nachmanides explains:

“And in the Mishkan the honor of Hashem that rested on Mount Sinai would be continuously manifested to the Jewish people…  And the word of Hashem that came to Moshe on Mount Sinai would continue to come to him from the Mishkan…”

Eventually, the Jewish people established a Jewish state and homeland in the Land of Israel and built a permanent Bais Hamikdash in Jerusalem that continued to serve as the “interface” between the people and Hashem.  When the Jews went into exile, however, and the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, something else had to replace it for the scattered, far-flung nation.  The prophet Ezekiel comforted the Jewish people by telling them that the synagogue would fill this need:

“Thus said the Lord Hashem: Although I have removed them far away among the nations, and although I have scattered them among the lands, yet I have been for them a small sanctuary in the lands where they arrived.”

The Talmud explains that the expression “a small sanctuary” refers to the synagogues and houses of study in the Diaspora.

Nachmanides adds that another purpose of the synagogue is to proclaim and publicize our relationship with the Creator:

“The purpose of raising our voices in prayer, the purpose of synagogues and the merit of communal prayer is in order to provide people with a place to gather and to acknowledge that Hashem is the Creator Who brought them into existence.  And they publicize this and declare before Him, ‘We are Your creations.’”

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