The period of Shovavim in a leap year
Next week begins the period known as ‘Shovavim’ which is an acronym for the first six Parshiot of Sefer Shemot: Shemot, Va’era, Bo, BeShalach, Yitro, and Mishpatim. The essence of these weeks is about the Jewish people’s transition from being Avadim to Paroh to being Avadim to Hashem. Therefore, it is fitting during this time for people to attempt to break free of their personal slavery and addictions, and begin to serve Hashem with a life of freedom.
This year being that's a leap year however, Terumah and Tetzaveh are included effectively changing the title to ‘Shovavim TaT.’ Many questions arise because of this inclusion of Parashat Terumah and Tetzaveh. For example, why does the building of the Mishkan relate to this transition process? Was receiving the Torah not the end goal? Perhaps the answer can be rooted in the Pasuk in Parashat Terumah (2:8) “Ve’Asu Li Mikdash, VeShochanti BiTocham”, “Let them make Me a sanctuary so that I can dwell in them.” The building of the Mishkan and fabricating the Bigadim for the Kohanim theoretically creates space for HaKadosh Baruch Hu to dwell amongst Bnei Yisrael in this world. This quasi-physical relationship is the apogee of ‘Shovavim.’ The ultimate goal of Torah study and the observance of Mitzvot is to acquire the tangible relationship with the Ribono Shel Olam.
Moshe Alshich, also known as Alshich HaKadosh, who was one of Rabbi Yosef Caro’s top Talmidim, points out that the Pasuk should say “VeAsu Li Mikdash, VeShochanti Bo”, “Let them make Me a sanctuary so that I can in it” instead of “so that I can dwell in them.” The Alshich HaKadosh explains that the Pasuk is not just referring to the Mikdash; rather it is also referring to the hearts of each and every Jew. It is every person’s duty to provide a space for Hashem to dwell with them. The sole reason why Hashem took Klal Yisrael out of Mitzrayim and gave them the Torah was for Klal Yisroel to be transformed into a nation which brings Godliness into their daily lives.
Correspondingly, the sole goal of ‘Shovavim’ is to be conscious of the way we speak, the way we think, and the way we act by being and to sanctify it. Hashem is desires to be with us wherever we are and it is our obligation to provide a proper environment for Hashem to dwell. For this reason we are commanded to make a “Mikdash” which is sanctified, instead of a Mishkan. When we are MeKadesh our whole livelihood we create a proper home for Hashem.