“לשכנו תדרשו ובאת שמה


בס”ד

לשכנו תדרשו

Seeking the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land

“לשכנו תדרשו ובאת שמה”

“I have sought Your closeness, with all my heart I have called unto You, and when I set out before You, before me I have found You” (R’ Yehuda HaLevy). Our hearts and the hearts of our ancestors join us in the ever-long quest to feel the closeness of God, to experience His Holy Presence, to know HaShem with all our heart and soul. One of the highest fulfillments of this request is reached in the Bais HaMikdash, and one of the greatest and most powerful ways of bringing the Bais HaMikdash into realization is the spiritual, mental, and verbal quest itself, as we learn from this week’s title quote and from our constant primary title: “The Holy Presence You shall seek, and you shall (consequently) come there (to the Temple Mount)” (Deut. 12, 5). Indeed, Jeremiah (30, 17) repeats the obligation of seeking Zion, by saying, “Zion is she, she has no seeker”, from which our Sages learned (Suka 41a) “that from this it can be inferred that Zion must be seeked/addressed”. Based on this inference, our Sages halachically instituted many reminders of Zion, such as leaving a portion of a house unpainted, putting ashes on the head of a groom and/or breaking a glass at a wedding, ripping garments when seeing deserted Judean cities and/or  Jerusalem and Temple Mount (today ripping is restricted to the Temple Mount because of Jewish rebuilding/control in these areas, thank God (Igros Moshe)),  restrictions on music, jewelry, and more (see Rambam Taaniot 5, 12-18 and Shulhan Aruch Orah Haim 560-561). Similarly, the state of Zion and Jerusalem is the deciding factor in the necessity of observing the four fasts of Gedalia, 10th of Tevet, 17th of Tamuz, and Tisha Bav (see Zecharia 8, 19, Rosh HaShana 18b, and Rambam ibid, 19). Obviously, these halachic modes of conduct are not meant to limit our thoughts to these actions alone, but are, on the contrary, meant to open our hearts to indeed “seek Zion” and the Holy Presence therein, as is clear from the source of these halachic rulings. It is also clear from these sources and rulings that “seeking Zion” does not mean Jerusalem alone, but the Land of Israel at large (just a few examples: Gedalia fast commemorates the exile from the Land even after the destruction of the 1st Bais HaMikdash, ripping on all Judean cities and not just Jerusalem, and more). However, how are we supposed to “seek Zion” and the Holy Presence, when we are lives are so distant from what Zion was, so distant from knowing how life was like when the Holy Presence was in its proper place? The answer to this question lies with the knowledge of the fact that “His Honor (a term for the Holy Presence – see Onkelos Shlah) fills the entire Earth” (Isaiah 6, 3). This verse and many others teach us that really God is always with us, even if the level of manifestation of His Holy Presence is lessened outside of Zion and without the Bais HaMikdash. Therefore, to “seek the Holy Presence” means constant work on noticing God’s Providence in our daily lives even in the Diaspora. When we work on noticing God’s Providence upon us both in the Diaspora and in the Holy Land we develop the sensitivity as to the state of the Holy Presence, thereby awakening the feeling of need for the Holy Presence that is hidden within us. This feeling of needing the Holy Presence is compounded when one also aspires for a higher level of Providence. For those in the Diaspora this can mean to contemplate the level of Providence in the Holy Land, and for those in the Holy Land this can mean to contemplate the Providence in the Bais HaMikdash. In any case, it is by developing this “need” and sensitivity that we ultimately “seek the Holy Presence” and join the Holy Presence in its “revival”. It is by connecting to Hebron that we connect to the Shechina therein (Zohar Shemot) by the very roots of our People’s connection to the Holy Land, threshold of the Holy Presence.

Real Stories from the Holy Land #29: “I was seriously studying for a halachic exam on Shulhan Aruch for the coming day when I once was randomly asked near a bus stop a number of Torah questions by a Jew, who at least from outward appearance seemed not religious. He asked about the questions to Adam and Kayin, “where are you?” I commented that there is a high spiritual concept of seeking in the term “ayeh” used in the Musaf prayer. As the conversation flowed, he made a number of interesting insights, one of them being that the numerical value of “ayeh” is taz=16, and then said that this alludes to the acronym of Turei Zahav which is mentioned in context of Nekudot HaKesef in Shir Hashirim. It turns out that the Turei Zahav and Nekudot HaKesef are also the names of well known commentators on the Shulhan Aruch. I then was reminded to focus on these commentaries well, and indeed the exam had many questions pinpointed specifically on these commentaries. “

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