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Merging Two Worlds

Friday, 20 July, 2018 - 7:02 am

History repeats itself.

Amazingly, history repeated itself exactly the same way at exactly the same time. Nearly 500 years after the first Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) was destroyed by the Babylonians, the Romans destroyed the second Beit Hamikdash on the very same day.

Can it be merely a coincidence?

Or is there something about this day, the Ninth of Av, that contains so much misery within it?

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This week’s parsha Devarim is the beginning of the longest speech in history. Sometimes, short speeches are the most memorable, as in Gettysburg in 1863. But this speech is an entire volume of our holy Torah. And it was delivered by Moshe over a period of 37 days, the very last days of his life.

The first four books of the Torah are G-d’s speech to the Jewish people. The last book is Moshe’s speech. Altogether they comprise the Five Books of Moses.

Remarkably, Moshe’s speech is just as much a part of the Torah as the rest. In fact, some of our most famous quotes are taken from the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy). The Shema, for example, is from Devarim.

We Jews believe that everything Moshe told us in that speech was a message from G-d. What’s the difference, then, between Moshe conveying G-d’s words in the first four books and the last?

The key distinction lies in the fact that in the first four books Moshe relays verbatim the word of G-d. In the last book, he puts it in his own words.

Why did Hashem ask Moshe, a human being, to use his own language to present the holy and infallible word of G-d? Wouldn’t it be safer and more accurate to just provide a printout for Moshe to read from (as in the other four books)?

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Chassidic teachings emphasize that Hashem desires partnership with human beings. Left to our own devices, we would never be able to connect with an infinite G-d. But, if all instructions were laid out before us to the T, our innermost, genuine selves would not be party to G-d’s plan.

For the world to be perfect, it needs G-d direction and human innovation and initiative.

This is the secret of Devarim, a book largely repeating what we already knew. Before we heard it from G-d’s perspective. Now we are reading the humanly-internalized version.

***

The first Beit Hamikdash was an unbelievable structure constructed by Divine edict, by Shlomo (Solomon) at a time of great unity and dominion.

At that time, G-d’s presence was on full display, with constant miracles. Foreign royals descended upon Jerusalem to partake in the magnificent wonders of G-d’ House.

The second Beit Hamikdash did not share the glory of the first. Some of the sacred items were missing. Not all the Jews returned to Israel for its construction. It was built by human initiative, not Divine decree. And, the miracles were no longer plentiful.

We Jews pray many times daily for the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash. But, for which Beit Hamikdash are we begging? Do we want G-d to present us with another spiritual and physical masterpiece (as in the first)?  Or will we humans try our best to make a humble home for G-d (similar to the second)?

*

The truth is that we pray for both. Our tradition teaches that the third Beit Hamikdash will contain both virtues. It will be the handiwork of G-d (pure holiness of G-d’s heavenly touch) and it will be constructed by mankind (we will earn it and it will be a reflection of who we are).

On Tisha B’Av, says the Talmud, the redeemer (Moshiach) of the Jewish people was born. This means that the day of destruction is also the day of construction – that the day of mourning for the first two Holy Temples is also the day of rebuilding.

The first two Temples represented two polar energies: G-d/Humanity; Miracles/Nature; Beauty/Simplicity; Above/Below; Infinity/Limitation.

The Third will include both of them.

No wonder they were both destroyed on the same day. This day (Tisha B’Av) contains both energies.

No wonder the beginning of our redemption began on the very day the Temples were destroyed.

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