Friday, February 11, 2011

Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh - In my heart I will build a Sanctuary

We are in the midst of several parshiot describing in great detail the requirements for building the mishkan, portable tabernacle or sanctuary, that would accompany the Israelites along their journey. The entire mishkan was made up of pieces that were easy to assemble/disassemble except for the poles that were attached to the ark itself and that were used to carry it around. The purpose of the attached poles was to provide a material illustration of what the Hebrew letter "bet" in Exodus 25:8  illustrates.

וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּש וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם:
And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.

Hashem said that she wanted the Israelites to build Her a sanctuary so that She could dwell among them, not so that She could dwell in the sanctuary. The sanctuary would serve as a focus point for the people to use in prayer - to help them remember that the Divine Presence is always among them, travels with them wherever they are, where ever they go. Therefore the only part of this portable Mishkan that actually needs to be permanent is the poles for they facilitate the travel.

Today we no longer have a portable Mishkan. We no longer have a Temple in Jerusalem. Many of us do not even have a formal Mikdash M'at in the form of a synagogue or house of study. But even for those of us who do, that might not be enough. We need something more to sustain us, to inspire us, to feed our faith, to warm our imaginations, to make our spirits soar.  Something for which we would be willing to sacrifice part or all of our bodies or souls.    ~In my heart I will build a Sanctuary    ~בִּלְבָבִי מִשְׁכָּן אֶבְנֶה, לַהֲדַר כְּבוֹדוֹ

May we all find what we need in order to make a Mikdash M'at of ourselves, to turn our very bodies which themselves are gifts from Hashem into containers for the eternal flame of our faith/inspiration/soaring neshamot~souls.

Shabbat Shalom - rabba arlene

Source: Sefer Chareidim by R' Elazar Azkari

בִּלְבָבִי מִשְׁכָּן אֶבְנֶה, לַהֲדַר כְּבוֹדווֹ,
וּבַמִּשְׁכָּן מִזְבֵּחַ אָשִׂים, לְקַרְנֵי הוֹדוֹ.
וּלְנֵר תָּמִיד אֶקַּח לִי, אֶת-אֵש שׁהָעֲקֵדָה, 
וּלְקָרְבָּן אַקְרִיב לווֹ אֶת נַפְשִׁי,  אֶת נַפְשִׁי הַיְּחִידָה

Bil’vavi mishkan evneh, la-hadar k’vo’doh
u’va’mishkan mizbei’ach ah-sim, l’karnei hodo.
u’l’ner tamid ekach li, eit aish ha-akeda,
u’l’korban a’kriv lo et nafshi, ha’yi’chida.

    In my heart I will build a Sanctuary, to glorify G-d’s Honour/Awesomeness
    and in the Sanctuary I will place an altar,
    to  glorify/enhance G-d’s splendor.
    And for the eternal light I will take, the fire of the Akedah (binding of Isaac),
    and for a sacrifice I will offer up my soul, my unique soul.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I'm writing again... random thoughts... and some Zohar

Shalom Y'all -

I wonder if I should say the beracha "m'chayei ha'meitim" which you are supposed to say when you see someone you haven't seen in so long it's as if they've been dead and it's as if they are ressurrected, you are seeing them come back to life!

I haven’t written in this blog for over a year and I realize that I missed it.  The noun itinerant means “a person who travels from place to place.” Though I am no longer in Israel I still fit that definition to a tee.  Home in Maryland, school in Philly, pulpit in Ottawa, family in New England, friends all over (not that I ever see them), heart in Israel… I think that qualifies.

My thoughts are itinerant as well – they travel (bounce really )from place to place – are rarely confined to the small interior space of my brain –  head out to the stratosphere – pop back for a quick check in – go bug someone else for a while – come to me with an update – then begin the pattern all over again. Keeps me busy, especially when I have insomnia, which is all too often. So I thought I’d start writing again. People will read or not. And that’s okay.  I just figured I’d write – who knows what wisdom might find its way from my fingers to the page and surprise all of us?

Things of importance that happened today:

1) Today I learned how to open a wine bottle for the first time.  I am nearly 50 years old and this is, I am sort of but not really embarrassed to say, the first time I have ever successfully opened a bottle of wine. Didn’t split the cork, no little pieces floating around or anything. The wine is decent but not great – a kosher Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc Clarksburg 2008 – a good year I’m sure:) It goes well with my French bread pizza, vanilla scented candle, and hole in my living room ceiling that has water dripping down through the tiles that fell off due to the weight of the snow on the roof of the old house that houses my dismal apartment in Philly. I needed fortification to finish up some of last semester’s work. So far so good.

2) Today I was reminded that even though I am adamant that I am not a very spiritual or mystical person (in fact I don’t even know the definition of a “spiritual” person) I totally dig the Zohar.
Am taking a course called the Mystical traditions of Sabbath with a fantastic Rabbi, teacher, and friend Mira Regev and it Rocks!               Spent some time today pondering the real differences between Avodah (commonly thought of as regular, everyday work) and Melachah (creative work that Jews are not allowed to do on Shabbat, the kind of work that G-d, the Awesome One, did to create the world). Are they really different? What are the differences? Definitionally we are led to believe they are very different but if you look closely at the text, you (or at least I) begin to question…
      And then, of course, I began reading the Zohar and read something about G-d’s work. And what is G-d’s work? Coupling with the Shechina (on Shabbos of course when all good Jewish men and woman enjoy double mitzvah night and thereby ensure the production of future generations of righteous children.) (source: Zohar 2:89b).  Being Jewish is a very cool thing to be, one must admit. Even the learning is fun, and practical too.

3) I also was reminded today, well this week really, how lovely it is to see one’s chevre when one hasn’t seen them for a while. Good friends are never to be taken for granted. Ever.

4) And my Philly flatmate D. is back from her sojourn in the Holy Land so I am no longer alone. Yea! This is our 3rd year sharing  a flat. A good flatmate is more precious than diamonds (or is it rubies – that’s Eshet Chayil anyways but you get the point). Welcome home D!

Back to the school work. A Rabbit’s work is never done, even an Itinerant one’s.

The task tonight – writing a lesson plan on how to teach the Hebrew language poem Tefillin by Yona Wallach. Have you read it yet? If not, give it a read and tell me what you think. It is a bit controversial (ok, more than a bit). But if you look below the surface, I promise you, there is much there.

Kol tuv, be well.. more to come…

rabba arlene