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The portion of Terumah deals with the physical building of the Tabernacle, the Mishkan, by the Israelites in the desert. After explaining what they're about to do, the Creator says, “Build everything that I'm showing you,” because we know Moses not only received the words, but also the vision, of what the Mishkan is meant to look like, the way it has to be built, its exact measurements, and all the measurements of the utensils that would be used within it.
The Creator says, “I'm giving you exact directions. Do not deviate from them.” And then the Creator adds in his direction to Moses, “And make sure you keep doing this.” So, first the Creator tells Moses, “Build it exactly as I'm showing you. Build the exact measurements that I'm showing you,” and then He tells him, “Also make sure that if you ever build a resting place for Me you follow these same directions,” which the commentators explain is speaking of the first and the second Temples that were built, and eventually the third. So, it's a very direct, clear commandment from the Creator to Moses. Build the Tabernacle according to these dimensions, and make sure that, forever, if you ever build something like this again, you use these exact measurements.
But that didn't happen. When King Solomon received the message from the Creator to build the Temple, he did not build it according to the measurements that the Creator had Moses use to build the Tabernacle. So, either the Creator didn't mean what He said, or King Solomon didn't accept it. Why did King Solomon, when he built the Temple, change the measurements?
When we talk about the building of the Tabernacle in Terumah, it is true that it was built in the physical world. But the purpose, as we know, of the Tabernacle, was not the physical structure that was created; it was all a mirror of a spiritual reality.
Rav Ashlag uses a concept he calls the language of the branches, which means everything that exists in the physical world also exists in a different, non-physical spiritual form in the Upper Worlds. And when we use words, even words like “Light,” of course we don't mean the physical light, we mean the spiritual Light, but there's a relationship between what's called the branches and the root, which is the spiritual essence. So when we speak about the physical building of the Tabernacle, what the Creator was actually giving the Israelites was not so much a blueprint of what they were meant to build to reside in the physical world, but rather the blueprint of what it looks like in the Upper World. And then, if you translate that into a physical form, this is the form it would take.
For instance, the physical body is a physical translation of a spiritual entity of the Light of the Creator. Why do we have ten fingers on our hands, ten toes, two arms? All of that is a translation of a spiritual entity that exists. And if we had the ability to understand the correlation between spiritual and physical, we’d be able to build and say, “Okay, this is the way a man should be.” In this case, the Creator is saying this is the way the spiritual world works in the Upper Worlds, and I want you to build a physical translation of that in this world;” the Tabernacle was not an arbitrary building, but rather, a physical translation of the spiritual world.
Moses, when he went up to Mount Sinai to bring the Light of Immortality to this world, was connected— not with his eyes, but with his soul - to the spiritual framework. And then when he came down into this world, the Creator came to Moses and said, “Remember what you saw, what you were connected to? Take the spiritual reality that you experienced up in the mountain and translate it into a physical form.” Because there will be a correlation, and therefore, the ability within that physical form to connect, because unfortunately, most people are still in the physical, so what they need is the pathway to the spiritual.
The Mishkan was the spiritual translation of the spiritual reality and when people would enter into its physical structure, they would already begin to be connected to its true source in essence. As such, the Tabernacle that Moses built was based on the prophecy, or as it's called, the vision, that Moses had of the spiritual reality as it existed when he went up to Sinai. So now the spiritual reality changes because the Israelites at that point in the desert were at a certain spiritual level, and Moses was at a certain spiritual level. And therefore, the connection that he had and the way the spiritual world was set up for him and for the Israelites at that time was unique for them. It's what he saw and therefore translated.
And we know that two prophets will never prophesize in the same way. Why? Because people change, and generations change. And we speak about this a lot, but it's important. This is really what separates the wisdom of Kabbalah from other spiritual wisdoms and other religious processes. We know that the spiritual work, and even the spiritual wisdom, has to change and transform based on where people are. If you tried to give people today the process that the Israelites went to in the desert, it wouldn't fit, because souls are at, and from, a different place.
Therefore, it is a beautiful revelation that when the Creator said to Moses, this is the way you build it, and this is the way you're going to do it for generations, He meant that you have to build it not based on the physical measurements that He is giving now. How do you get to these physical measurements? Moses had a spiritual vision. He saw the way the spiritual world is set up right now. He saw the way the souls of the world have to interact with that spiritual world, and you translate that into a physical structure. Therefore, King Solomon, or whoever in the next generations, builds a resting place for people to be able to enter, and through it elevate and connect to the spiritual world, also have to have a vision of what exists spiritually at that time, and build a place based on that.
One should not build based on the physical structure and measurements that they were using to build the Tabernacle; rather, when you build, you have to have a vision of what's happening in the Upper World and have the vision of these souls that exist in this world, and then build the structure that fits the spiritual realm with the souls that exist in the world at that time. Therefore, of course, the measurements are going to change, because the spiritual interaction of the Upper Worlds and the new souls in this world are constantly changing. And you have to be able to translate the spiritual existence as it exists in that generation, in that time, for the souls that are coming to connect.
For Moses and the Israelites, those measurements were the right measurements, because that was the translation of the spiritual world that existed. In every generation, we have to understand this is not just talking about the building of a Tabernacle; this is talking about the spiritual work. And therefore we have to understand that the spiritual work today is different than it was certainly at the time of Moses and certainly in the time of King Solomon. Every generation's spiritual work is different and every individual's spiritual work is different. We speak about this, but the reason why it's so dangerous to do the spiritual work the same all the time is because the spiritual work that we did yesterday was right for yesterday. But today the spiritual work changed. Our soul changed. If we’re doing the same thing in the same way with the same consciousness today as we did yesterday, we’re not connecting to the right place.
Had King Solomon actually built the Temple based on the same measurements as the Tabernacle in the desert, it wouldn't have worked. It was the wrong translation. It was the wrong physical manifestation in the spiritual world, because the spiritual realm, the souls, and their interaction at the time of King Solomon was different than it was at the time of Moses. The Creator was telling us that we need to be careful in our spiritual work, not just in the building of the Tabernacle or the building of the Temple. Everything has to be the correct translation of what's existing right now. If we're doing the same thing, even day to day, it won't work. Because the spiritual reality of the Upper Worlds is changing, and the spiritual reality of our soul is changing. If we're doing the same thing, we’re in the wrong place.