Torah Tidbits

28 August 2014 / 2 Elul 5774
Issue 1034
Shabbat Parshat T'rumah
February 14, 2013

Lead Tidbit

Is Bilvavi Enough?

BILVAVI is a beautiful song, the words of which are based on the Sefer Chareidim, written by R’ Elazar Azkari, a 16th century (actually, our 54th century) kabbalist, a contemporary of the Ari z"l. By the way, he also wrote YEDID NEFESH.
The words of the song translate roughly as follows:
In my heart I will build a Mishkan for His glory,
and in that Mishkan I will place an altar to His splendor.
and as an eternal light I will take the fire of the Akeida (Isaac’s binding),
and as an offering to Him, I will offer my only soul.
One can understand that the inspiration of these words is the pasuk that commands us to build the Mikdash from this week’s sedra. They (the Children of Israel) shall make for Me a Mikdash (the first result of this command is known as the Mishkan), and I will dwell AMONG THEM. As pointed out more than once or twice in this week’s TT, the pasuk does not say that G-d will dwell in the Mikdash which we will construct, but rather He will dwell within us.
So the question of this week’s Lead Tidbit title is, Is it enough to bring the Divine Presence within us, into our hearts, and to offer up our souls to G-d? Is that not the purpose of the actual construction of a physical Mikdash - Mishkan, Beit HaMikdash - or whatever we call it? If the command is to build a Mikdash and the promise from G-d is that He will dwell within us - as a people and/or as individuals.
What if we can get closer to G-d in different ways - do we actually need a physical entity called a Mikdash?
Just in case someone has read this far, but - for some reason - is not going to continue, let me answer the question: NO! BILVAVI is NOT enough!
Yes the goal is to draw the Sh’china, so to speak, into our midst and into each of ourselves. But the way that the Torah tells us that this can be accomplished is by fulfilling the mitzva of V’ASU LI MIKDASH.
This is not very different from many, many other mitzvot.
The Torah tells us to dwell in Sukkot for seven days and then adds the goal of the mitzva - namely, that all the generations shall know about the Exodus and the protection that G-d provided the People in their sojourn in the Midbar.
What if I can effectively transmit the message of the mitzva to my children using an inspiring PowerPoint presentation, some role-playing, or whatever? Does that mean that we can bypass the building and living in the Sukka? Certainly NOT!
We are commanded to perform mitzvot. They are goals in and of themselves. AND they are means to achieve bigger goals. Further goals. Super goals. But they are also goals - and they cannot be circumvented. And besides, we know only parts of reasons for mitzvot. Some more and some less. But even the most understandable of mitzvot, the ones whose reasons seem so obvious to us, so logical, so based on common sense - might (probably?) have aspects that elude us. And, if we cannot figure out or know the full “why” of mitzvot, it would be serious folly, as well as arrogance, to try to bypass a mitzva to strive for its goal.
Back to the Mikdash. We have been without a Beit HaMikdash for so long that the Bilvavi concept appeals to us all the more.
We don’t have a Mikdash today, we pray for its rebuilding, we long for it… but in the meanwhile, the idea of building a Mishkan in one’s heart has a great appeal. And it is not a bad thing to do. It’s actually a good, positive thing to do. How fortunate are the Jewish People, that we can function religiously and spiritually after so many years of exile. And without so many mitzvot.
But some of us make the mistake of drawing the wrong conclusion from our success. If davening - which always was and will be its own thing - has successfully replaced the bulls (and other sacrifices), if we have developed other mechanisms to handle our diminished conditions of service of G-d… then maybe Bilvavi is the way to go?
Again, we say that Bilvavi certainly is a positive thing, but not to replace or bypass the Mikdash or any other mitzva. Mitzvot are for body & soul.

In This Issue of Torah Tidbits

Candle Lighting and Havdala

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