This week, Jews around the UK are celebrating Shabbat UK. Our weekly portion lends itself very readily to this occasion as it is one of the four places in the Torah where Shabbat is mentioned in the context of the Tabernacle. (Bonus question: Can you find the other three?)

Why do we have these intertwined concepts?

The answer is that both constitute sanctuaries. The Tabernacle (Temple) is a sanctuary in space and the Shabbat is a sanctuary in time. Rabbi JB Soloveitchik (1903-1993) explains that G-d, who is infinite, beyond space and time, wants us to create a home for Him, both in space and time.

The Jew of two thousand years ago, who prepared to enter the Temple, could not but be awe-struck as he or she sensed that they were in the presence of G-d. (In a parallel way, we are required to sensitise ourselves that when we enter our synagogues, we are coming into places of sanctity, where the presence of G-d is more palpable.)

Similarly, as we prepare to welcome Shabbat with candles, prayers and songs, we appreciate that we are about to enter a holy zone where the presence of G-d is all around.

Yet ultimately, G-d wants us not merely to enter His house, but that he should be able to enter us! As the Rebbe of Kotzk once said: Where is G-d? He is where you are prepared to let Him in! The command to build a Tabernacle is: “They shall make for a Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in them.” (Shemot 25:8)

Similarly, as we greet Shabbat, the ideal is that not just we should enter Shabbat, but that Shabbat should enter us, and we feel transformed by its presence.

The beautiful poem, Lecha Dodi, expresses this idea as we welcome the Shechina into our homes and into ourselves.

Bo’i Kallah, Bo’i Kallah

Shabbat UK Shalom