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The Nature of Love

By: Mrs Channy Cabessa

            In Parashat Terumah, the Torah relates the instructions for the building of the Mishkan, a space that will allow the children of Yisrael to engage in a more intimate relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu upon their own initiative. The instructions appear in striking contrast to the ethereal descent of Hakadosh Barukh Hu to Har Sinai just a few chapters earlier.

            “They shall make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wife, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold—overlay it inside and out—and make upon it a gold molding round about…” (Shemot 25:10-11)

            Through an account of these instructions, the Torah breaks down the Mishkan to its most basic elements and disrupts the thrilling story of Bnei Yisrael’s encounter with the divine with a tedious and meticulous account of the materials and measurements of both the structure of the Mishkan and the vessels within it. Reading these instructions is often disillusioning as it reduces an encounter with the divine to gold, silver, sockets, planks and cubits. Why does the Torah breakdown our relationship to Hakadosh Baruch Hu to such elemental details? I believe the answer can be found in the nature of love.

            Developments in neuroscience over the past few centuries have demonstrated that on the most fundamental level, our experience of love is a series of chemical reactions that transpires between the neurons in our brain. Nevertheless, while we know that certain neurotransmitters need to fire in order for us to experience love, and while we are aware that love cannot occur without neurons, we are unable to artificially engineer an experience of love between two individuals. Love must emerge from the interworking relationships of our complex system of neurons and neurotransmitters.

            Similarly, parashat Terumah, which comes from the root “rum,” meaning “to rise,” brings to our attention that our relationship to the shechina must emerge from the interworking relationships of the complex system of the Mishkan, which is seen as a microcosm of our world (Bamidbar Rabba 4:13). While we cannot engineer the dwelling of the shechina, it is our responsibility to pay close attention to the details in both the Mishkan and our world in order to create the conditions for our relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu to emerge. In order for the shechina to emerge, we must first recognize that its most basic elements are the planks and planks of the Mishkan, or the seemingly insignificant materials, thoughts and interactions of our world.




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