But the day is also pregnant with the most wondrous secrets and potential for manifesting our ultimate purpose.
I’ve posted some thoughts on the current month and today’s fast on my Facebook page for contemplation. (This one in particular drew a lot of attention.) But before the day is over, I want to share a beautiful meditation born of today that I find helpful in creating peace inside my heart and with others.
One of the primary focuses of our mourning today is the ransacking and demolition of the first and second Temples. This is well known. The notion of the “temple within” is a less familiar concept. It’s one I find particularly useful.
The Inner Temple
Both temples find their essential source in the breathtaking portable structure which the People of Israel made (and carried with them) while wandering the deserts of the Sinai Peninsula as nomads over a period of 40 years.
The tented structure was called a Mishkan, from the Hebrew word shochen, meaning to dwell or rest.
The Biblical verse instructing its building has a multilayered meaning because of its grammar: An eloquent translation would be, “Make me a Sacred Place where I can rest.” (Exodus 25:8) A more literal but clumsier translation renders, “Make me a sanctuary (so) that I can dwell within it.”
The verse, “Make me a Sacred Place where I can rest,” conveys that G-d dwells within each person’s heart.
Now here’s the grammatical dissonant which delivers the mystical clue I’m targeting: The verse begins in the singular and ends in the plural (the word “sanctuary” is singular (mikdash) but the word “it” is plural (betoCHAM rather than betoCHO.) Commentators infer from this that G-d’s desire is to find a haven within them (plural) – within the heart of each individual. That’s why the verse is often translated as, “Have them make me a sanctuary so I can dwell among them.” In other words, we’re not just being told that the Divine Source of all reality desires a geographical G-d Spot. Rather this is a communication that G-d wants to rest – and in fact does dwell – on the inside, within each individual’s heart.
However only the physical structure was destroyed. The place of the Temple remains eternally holy. (That why for example it is forbidden for all people to step on any of the areas where the Holy Temple actually stood. By the same token, visiting the temple mount is similar to making a pilgrimage to the Temple itself.)
The fact that the place of the Temple remains eternally holy has a parallel in our daily life:
Often we’re put out by someone else’s conduct. We take offense, are hurt, bent out of shape by what he or she has done. Sometimes it’s just a matter of perception. But sometimes we’re correct in our assessment that a wrong was done to us.
How do you handle that?
When you see someone and it appears to you that her “Temple” is broken, know that only their external Temple is destroyed. Only their present conduct is destroyed. But within, on the inside, she or he is always holy.