Man as mikdash

14 Jul
by Ilan Bloch

I love the Temple Mount. I love the history behind the site. I love the spiritual depth of the place, which I experience with each and every one of my footsteps there. Whether the magnitude of its kedusha (holiness) is intrinsic or a construct, I really do feel the Shechina (Divine Presence) there. As a kohen (descendant of the priestly class), duchening (reciting the Priestly Blessing) in synagogue has not been the same since I first ascended the Mount. Tomorrow night (Tisha Be’av), when Jewish people across the world mourn the destruction of the Temples, I too will feel this collective pain.

But, perhaps for the day to have even greater significance, the Temple needs to have greater symbolic value. Maybe we need to view the traditional yearning for the coming of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Temple as a metaphor for man’s longing for perfection. Perhaps during the Three Weeks (before Tisha Be’av) – and beyond! – we need to treat ourselves (and others!) as temples, purifying our bodies physically, cleansing our speech and thoughts, and perfecting our self-image, as well as our perception and treatment of others. Maybe the most important place for which we should mourn, and for which we should pray for its rebuilding, is our very own essence. Perhaps a Messianic era can arrive once each of us builds a mikdash (sanctuary) within our hearts and minds, our bodies and souls. Perhaps we need to cleave not (only?) to a piece of land but rather (also?) to ourselves and our fellows. Perhaps Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) can be better achieved through the honor we bestow upon others, created b’tselem Elokim (in the image of God), than in sovereignty or military control over this site or another.

May we rebuild ourselves and help others rebuild themselves speedily and in our days.

Ilan Bloch is the Director of Teaching Israel. Please visit http://www.teachingisrael.com/ for more details.

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2 Responses to “Man as mikdash”

  1. Peter Margolis July 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Ilan, you wrote a beautiful post about Tisha Be’Av, but I suspect you are aiming a bit too high for most Jews. The first step should perhaps be to cultivate in them the understanding that the holy day of Tisha Be’Av actually exists as someting more than an inconvenience when some stores are closed, rooted in what they perceive as an utterly irrelevant anecdote of ancient history. As you suggest, this points to the larger problem of a lack of transcendence in contemporary life in general, which the intersection of Jewish tradition and the Land of Israel is uniquely capable of filling for Jews (and pehaps not only for Jews). The task at hand is to make that connection in the perceptions of people for whom the patterns of Jewish observance are like a foreign language of which they know some words but don’t feel the need to become fluent. I would be honored to join you in that task.

  2. Ben Bokser July 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Ilan –
    For me Tisha b’Av must be about much more than self-perfection. While self-perfection is important, Tisha b’Av reminds me that I cannot achieve completion simply by perfecting myself as an individual. I am reminded of a mode of worship which included all of the senses, involved a sense of holiness in a specific place, and was performed with a sense of community involving an entire nation. Tisha b’Av is certainly an opportunity for reflection towards self-perfection, but from an awareness of the lack of that type of religious experience, an awareness that as an individual – and a member of the Jewish people – I am forever incomplete without that type of religious experience.

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