Rabbi David Walk
A couple of weeks ago we read in the Song of the Sea, "This is my God, and I will glorify Him (Exodus 15:2)." This translation is problematic, because the Hebrew term I translated as glorify is anveihu, and this is the only time we see this expression in the Bible. It could be related to the word noy, meaning beautify, or naveh, meaning house. So, are we claiming to beautify God or house the Deity? This week's parsha seems to answer the latter. When the Midrash asks why God created this universe, it answers that God wanted a place to live in the lower realms. We are privileged to have been given that assignment, when God tells us, "Make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell amongst you (25:8)." It's been pointed out by many commentaries that the building of the portable temple was similar to the creation of the world. With the end of the six days of creation, it says, "And God completed on the seventh day His work that He did, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work that He did. And God blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it (Genesis 2:2-3)." Similarly, when the mishkan was finished it says, "And Moses completed the work, So Moses blessed them, and you shall sanctify it and all its furnishings; thus it will become a holy thing (Exodus 40:33, 39:43, 40:9)." We emulated God and earned our right to be called the image of God. This finally brings me to this week's query. Since the temples are so crucial to our relationship to God, how can we continue our spiritual lives without one?
This has been a crucial question for Jews for many centuries, and its centrality doesn't go away. I believe that there are two ways to go on this issue. Let's try to understand the less well known approach first. The beginning of a strategy to deal with this problem began in
This idea, that we can maintain the
This declaration that we are all mourners for the destroyed and desecrated
Rabbi Soloveitchik believed that the fundamental human relationship with God is based upon crisis and distance. Our greatest spiritual attainments are achieved through hardship. This idea is expressed in many Psalms, when describing prayer, for example: You will not despise a contrite and crushed heart (51:19), From dire straights, I call out to God (118:5), From out of the depths, I cry out to You, O Lord (130:1). The act of prayer itself is described as coming from 'an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord (102:1).' The Rav actually used this position to elucidate a famous controversy between the Rambam (Maimonides, 1135-1204) and the Ramban (Nachmanides, 1194-1270). The Rambam wrote that the Torah obligation of prayer is to pray once a day. While the Ramban wrote that the requirement is only in time of trouble. However, the Rav reconciled the positions by stating that Maimonides would say that the normal existential condition of humans is one of crisis. So, we're in trouble daily.
If, as we stated earlier, God's greatest wish for this world is to maintain a Divine presence among these lower realms, then how can this best be achieved? According to the first team, this is best accomplished by maintaining a place for God in our midst, either the
I have a feeling that they're both right. For many of us we only feel the need and inspiration to call out to God when we feel oppressed. Others find it easiest to worship God in gladness and approach in joyous song (Psalms 100:2). Perhaps it all depends upon the personality of the individual. But what's most important is that we work hard to fulfill the intent of the verse and make a home for God in our midst. When we sense God's touch, we have succeeded.
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