Mishkan, Mikdash, Shul

In the Strive for Truth essay named “Mishkan and Mikdash” Rabbi Dessler points out that the Tabernacle is sometimes called Sanctuary (Mikdash) and sometimes called Dwelling Place (Mishkan). A Mikdash is a place of holiness where we recognize Hashem’s awesomeness and try to transcend our lower level to reach out to Hashem. A Mishkan is a place where Hashem rests His presence amongst us despite our relative lowliness because He knows we can lift ourselves up.

Our Shuls contain elements of both. When we start to pray Shemoneh Esrai, we strive to make Hashem’s presence so real, as if we were talking to a person. We need to feel the Mishkan. In the prayer itself we reach up to connect to Hashem in our minds and in our hearts. We can see the interplay between the two: the more we feel Hashem’s presence, the easier we can connect, and the more we connect, the more we feel Hashem’s presence.

From a practical point of view, we all need to work on our davening. Feeling Hashem’s presence is a challenge which needs real efforts to improve. Focusing on our prayers is another challenge. If we take a few seconds before starting Shomoneh Esrai to mentally acknowledge that we are standing before Hashem, we can at least start the first brocha with some of the required focus.

Our Sages instituted praying with a minyan to help us connect to Hashem. When we each work on trying to connect to Hashem through prayer our collective efforts make the Shul more of a place where Hashem’s presence can be felt. May we all merit success in our individual prayer efforts so we can turn our Shuls into the best Mishkans and Mikdashes they can be.