The Mishkan serves as the place where a Jew can have the opportunity to encounter Hashem’s Presence in a controlled and structured manner. The Ramban notes that the parsha concerning the building of the Mishkan (with its holy vessels) follows the parshios dealing with the giving of the Torah and instituting the system of laws and social justice. Only after Am Yisrael has established itself as a holy nation to be fulfilled through Torah and mitzvos do the Jewish people merit the Mishkan as a place to centralize the pre-existent holiness within the community. The Mishkan is not the source of the kedusha of Am Yisrael, but rather it is the reward for the study of Torah and performance of mitzvos. The relevance of the Mishkan and its contemporary counterpart – today’s synagogues – is consistent with the Torah observance of the Jewish people. The synagogue serves as a vehicle through which we can reach out and communicate to Hashem in a holy atmosphere.
In its account of Yosef’s revealation of his identity to his brothers, the Torah states that he fell, “ihnhbc hrtum kg”. This is translated literally as the “necks” of Binyamin. Rashi explains that the plural form of the word “neck” is an allusion to the two Batei Mikdash, situated in Binyomin’s territory which would be destroyed. Yosef was mourning this future reality. We may wonder at the Torah‘s comparison of the Bais Hamikdash to a neck. Rabbi Shimon Schwab Shlita offers an insightful explanation for this comparison. The function of the neck is to join a person’s head to the rest of his body. In this way, animalistic behaviors of the body are united with the center – the brain. The brain dominates and restrains man’s animalistic instincts, enabling humans to elevate themselves in order to communicate with Hashem. In a similar sense, the Bais Hamikdash connects the physical world with the spiritual one, the world of Hashem.
The Bais Hamikdash was the one forum in the world in which spirituality reigned. Man could step beyond his physical restraints, reach out and communicate directly with the Shechinah. Once again we may note the attitude towards the Bais Hamikdash, and the place of prayer, the synagogues. The Jewish people have survived because of their devotion to the Torah. The synagogue has served as a centralized place in which to express our devotion to Hashem. When contemporary critics of Judaism criticize the synagogue, the focal point of Jewish life, it is because they have experienced the most sterile forms of Jewish existence. Only through Torah study that will we merit the ultimate rebuilding of the home of spirituality, the Bais Hamikdash, at the time of the advent of Moshiach.