In My Heart, a Temple
Translated and Adapted by Rafaella Levine
Jerusalem is a state of mind. The temple exists within your own heart, waiting for you to enter, as the High Priest. It is the forum for your connection to your Creator, and it is you who are charged with rebuilding and beautifying that space. The Almighty is waiting for you, and He never gives up.
This week’s parsha, parashas Ki Setze, contains a warning against ascending the Temple Mount without proper preparation. The prohibition is still in effect today.
Not all countries are created equal. The Land of Israel is holier than all other lands: there is a relationship with the Creator ready to be tilled in a deeper and more immediate way than anywhere else. It is the “land that Hashem, your G-d, seeks out; the eyes of Hashem, your G-d are always upon it” (Deuteronomy 11:12). In other words, it merits a unique divine providence, somehow more direct than other places in the world.
The possibility for connection is even greater in Jerusalem. Within Jerusalem the Temple Mount, where the Temple structure (Bais Hamikdash) stood, is endowed with still greater holiness.
The entire Temple Mount, of which the Western Wall remains of its outer wall, is a special place, a place where the divine is most present. The mountain is as though pulsing with the message that we can connect, right here and now.
Even today the place is holy, and we treat it with respect. We don’t tour the actual Temple mount. And when Jews approach the Western Wall (the Kosel Hamaaravi) they do so with a certain amount of respect, an acknowledgement of the high spiritual voltage of the place.
A clear expression of this concept is the fact that the Bais Hamikdash was never completely destroyed. King Shlomo (Solomon), who built the Temple, prophesied in the Song of Songs, “Here He (G-d) stands behind our wall.” (Song of Songs 2:9). This refers to the Western Wall, which has not been subject to the destruction inflicted by our enemies. Neither the flames of the destruction nor the passage of time managed to destroy it. “The divine presence has never left the Western Wall” (Shemos Rabbah 2:2).
Why is it that it was specifically the Western Wall that was chosen to express this idea? A house is a permanent dwelling, while a wall is a temporary resting place, a thing to lean on or to rest in its shade. West is the direction of the setting sun; the direction of nightfall. The Temple opened eastward, towards the rising, shining sun. The idea expressed by the Western Wall’s survival is that even in the darkness, in the era of destruction, there will forever remain a source of support and surcease of suffering, as though resting in its shade. This is the Western Wall, which never lost the divine presence. This place has been the center for Jewish prayer for centuries: it is here that the Jewish people’s most heartfelt prayers are heard.
But there is one other place that the divine presence never abandoned. The divine presence has forever been felt in the hearts of the Jewish People. Each of us houses a space that is devoted to service of the Almighty. A space we can access within our selves and that can benefit those around us when we tap into it.
“In my heart I will build a temple,” go the well-sung lyrics by Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner.
With what shall you build it? How much effort will you put into beautifying the temple within you? How much time will you spend there? These are questions only you can answer.
But the Almighty wants a relationship. And He hasn’t given up. He chose to bring His Presence among us, in the hearts of each one of us, and it has never faded. It is true that we distance ourselves from the Almighty through our lifestyle and thoughtless behaviors, but even if our thoughts, actions, and words might destroy the Temple in our hearts, there will always remain a “Western Wall” where the connection remains intact. There is a place in our hearts that remains connected to the Almighty and yearns for intimacy.
The presence of the divine in the Temple Mount awaits the rebuilding of the Temple. In the same way, a Jew can work towards a personal spiritual redemption and rebuild the Temple in his/her heart, so that his/her heart will once again house a sanctuary, from which the love of the Almighty spreads.