Inside Out

It Depends to Whom You are Talking

In the opening passages of the Book of Devarim, which we begin reading this week, Moses recounts the events of the forty years the Jewish nation sojourned in the desert. Moses utilized this opportunity before his passing to rebuke his people for all of their transgressions. 

The great Chassidic Master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, known for his passionate love for and defense of the Jewish people, commented on the unusual fact that the very same Moses who asked G‑d to erase him from His book if He would not forgive the Jewish people now proceeds to rebuke them!  In fact, both exercises derived from Moses love for his people. When speaking to G‑d on behalf of the Jews, Moses was willing to give life and limb to have G‑d overlook their deficiencies, but when dealing with the people directly, Moses is unrelenting in his efforts to get them to go on the right path. 

Mountain Metaphors

In one of his descriptions of the past, Moses states how G‑d had said to him: "You have circled this mountain long enough! Turn northward."

Every word of Torah has eternal meaning. Moses' final words uttered on the threshold of the Jewish nation's entry into the Promised Land portend our own challenges as we stand poised to enter the Era of the Final redemption, after traversing the long and arduous exile. Their/our journey can be likened to going in circles.

A mountain in Torah literature conveys a double metaphor. On the one hand it is a symbol of the obstructive power of our internal impulses for evil; known as the Yetzer Hara (Talmud, Sukkah 52a). Paradoxically, the term mountain is also employed in Biblical and Talmudic literature as a reference to the Bais Hamikdash, the Holy Temple (Talmud, Berachos 48b).

And it is concerning both of these metaphors that G‑d tells us through Moses to cease circling the mountain and go north!

Go North!

In the context of our evil impulse, it seems we are often going in circles and never succeeding in conquering our evil impulse. It is as if we are circling the enemy and perhaps even eluding their arrows, but try as we may, we cannot surmount, vanquish or conquer the mountainous obstruction. 

As we approach the Messianic Age, the Torah exhorts us to cease struggling with evil in the conventional way of trying to contain it. Stop circling the enemy. It is now high time for us to go north. North in Hebrew-tzafon-also contains the meaning of "hidden." We must now reach into our subconscious spiritual reservoir to elicit deeper and more formidable resources that empowers us successfully scale and conquer the mountain.

Revealing our Inner Sanctuary

But the "mountain" here is also an allusion to the Bais Hamikdash, the Holy Temple that was built on a mountain as is frequently referred to as G‑d's mountain in Biblical and Talmudic literature. Circling the mountain in this context is a suggestion of our inability to realize our quest for the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash. Every year since the Temple was destroyed, close to two thousand years ago, we "surround the mountain." On the one hand we are obsessed with it. We make mention of it in our prayer countless times. We talk about it, we learn its laws and underlying philosophy, we yearn to see it in its glory. However, we are still going in circles. We have not been able to conquer that mountain and make the Third Temple a physical and palpable reality!.

Here too, the Torah tells us that the way to achieve our goal and finally realize two thousand years of yearning is to "go north."

As we mentioned, north means look for the hidden dimension of our own souls where our own personal Temple exists. The challenge is to make the subconscious Sanctuary which is deeply embedded within our soul a conscious part of our personality and our lives.  

Perhaps the idea of actualizing and revealing the hidden Temple is hinted in the word "turn." In Hebrew the word turn-p'nu is related to the word face and inward. These two words are at once contradictory and complementary. The face is the part of our anatomy that is never concealed. The word "face" in Hebrew as well as in English expresses the external nature of something, as in the phrase "on its face." Yet, paradoxically, the human face expresses our innermost emotions.  Our face takes our most intimate secrets and internal nature and puts it on display for everyone to see.

Hence, when G‑d tells us "P'nu-turn and go northward" it can also be rendered: "Reveal your subconscious and concealed Sanctuary." 

By exposing our own internal Temple and allowing it to show up on our face we enable the physical Sanctuary that is presently concealed and eludes us to be revealed from its hidden location. Our efforts today are the catalysts for the unfolding of the events associated with the coming of Moshiach, including the building of the Bais Hamikdash.

Who Will Rebuild The Bais Hamikdash?

With the foregoing analysis we can reconcile the two views concerning the way the Third temple will be built.

According to Maimonides, the Third Temple will be built by Moshiach and the Jewish people. According to Rashi, the Third Temple will, miraculously, descend from above.

One way of reconciling these two views has been cited by the Rebbe that it depends on our own spiritual state before the coming of Moshiach. If we are worthy and refined, the Temple will be a spiritual one that will descend from Above. If, however, we are spiritually wanting, we will have to invest our own human efforts in rebuilding the Temple. The Temple will not, initially, be as magnificent and spiritual as in the first scenario.

In light of the earlier explanation of "turn and go north" additional light can be shed on the two scenarios offered for the construction of the future Sanctuary. If we do not succeed in revealing our hidden "tzafon-north" inner Sanctuary that means that we are content with our superficial and most peripheral spiritual efforts. It means that we have not plumbed the depths of our soul to mine the hidden spiritual treasures we all possess. We are content with the most external and least strenuous efforts to make ourselves and our surroundings Sanctuaries for G‑d. Hence, the Third Temple will likewise-at least, initially-be of an external and less spiritual nature. It will be built by finite human beings, albeit with the guidance and inspiration of Moshiach. 

Moreover, in the event that we are wanting in our spirituality, Moshiach's full potential might also have to wait for it to be revealed. Moshiach will initially only reveal the outer layers of his capabilities and personality and therefore build a somewhat limited version of the Temple.

On the other hand, if we are worthy; if we have revealed the deepest soul-powers so that they are now on the surface, we will unleash a parallel phenomenon. The Third Temple-which is presently hidden and beyond our reach-will descend and materialize before our eyes. The hidden will become fully manifest. 

This week, as we stand on the threshold of Tisha B'Av-the anniversary of the destruction of the two Temples-it is the most propitious time for us to reveal and reconstruct our inner Sanctuary so that on this Tisha B'Av we will see the rebuilding of the Third Temple that will descend from Heaven. At that time the forces of evil (represented by the word "mountain") will be completely conquered.  And instead of the forces of evil posing insurmountable obstacles to our Jewishness, we will all climb the "mountain"-we will witness the revelation of the Third Bais Hamikdash that will descend from Heaven.

Moshiach Matters

The Talmud tells that Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi asked when Moshiach was going to come and he was told “Today!” This has to be the response and attitude of every one of us. Moshiach’s arrival should be so real to us that as soon as someone asks us when we think Moshiach will come, our immediate repsonse should be: “Today.” (The Rebbe, Simchat Torah, 1989).
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