Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Shir Chanukah

A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the house of David.  

(Psalm 30:1)

At first glance, the contents of this Psalm presents some difficulty regarding the connection between the Psalm and its superscription.  Th Psalm does not contain one word about the Temple, let alone it's construction and dedication.  Rather, what we discover here is a description of an entire lifetime of experiences, recounting the deliverance, trials, and bliss which G-d sends to those who have devoted themselves to Him.  If we examine the Psalm more closely, however, perhaps we will unveil a connection to the Temple after all.

Let us first consider the nature and significance of the Temple, the House of G-d, whose primary function is to bring to mind the nearness of G-d on earth and the intimate relationship of G-d and man.  In other words, the presence of G-d in our midst as well as our striving towards Him.  Let us think back for a moment, all the way back to the original thought of a "House of G-d" and the first dedication of a cornerstone which served to express the intimate union between heaven and earth and the protecting and benevolent presence of G-d.

The first man to make the decision to erect a House of G-d determined to do so in the hope that G-d would consider him worthy of the Divine presence by granting him promised aid, protection, and provision (cf. Genesis 28:12-22).  In fact, Jewish tradition relates that the Temple was eventually erected in the very place where Jacob took a stone and lay down, dreaming of the angels ascending and descending on a ladder extending from heaven to earth.

In light of this, we can begin to understand the thought which motivated David to build a permanent sanctuary unto Hashem.  King David was intimately acquainted with the nearness, guidance, and direction of G-d which he had experienced through all the many years of a life filled with trouble and trial.  Therefore the thoughts in this Psalm serve as cornerstones, as it were, for all our houses of G-d.  We must keep before us the purpose of our houses of worship where we keep these thoughts before us: His nearness, His guidance, and His direction.

These ideas are illustrated beautifully in verse two:

I will extol You, O L-RD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me.

According to our Sages, this is the only place in the Scriptures where the root dalah, meaning "to draw up" is employed.  It means to lift up an object from the depths towards oneself and to keep that object hanging suspended over that depth.  The idea is that which was drawn up from below has its support somewhere above, and were it not for this support from above which keeps it suspended, it would invariably sink back into the depths below.

All others lean on some prop in the earth below, but we seek our support only from above, from G-d Himself, and G-d alone.  There is nothing on earth that upholds or supports us.  If we were left to ourselves and our own devices, we would inevitably sink back into the depths below.  This is the lesson we are to learn: Whoever enters this house, whoever considers himself as belonging to it, whoever consecrates his life unto G-d there, by so doing he renounces all earthly support and commits to grasping the hand of G-d in full assurance that He will lift us up and grant us strength and support from on High throughout all the days of our lives.

The repeated demonstrations of G-d's greatness throughout our lives represent a charge to all men to, as our Sages express it, "give ourselves entirely to G-d with complete devotion of self which exemplifies the spirit and significance of every offering offered up in the house of G-d."  Rav Sha'ul puts it this way in his epistle to the Romans:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of G-d, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to G-d, which is your reasonable service.   And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of G-d  (cf. Romans 12:1-2).

Beginning in verse seven and continuing through verse twelve, we are confronted with a serious moment from David's difficult and oftentimes tumultuous life, a moment which culminated in gladness and one that would eventually turn out to be a most precious gift of providence.  As related by our Sages, David says in effect:

"At one time I enjoyed undisturbed prosperity.  In that happy state, when I basked in the favor of both men and circumstances," says David, "I was tempted to regard all of this as the sure foundation of my present and the security for my future.  I failed to remember that our security, both present and future, lies not in material prosperity and in the approval of other men, but solely in G-d's favor.  I forgot that, in fact, the friendship of our fellowmen and favorable material circumstances are themselves nothing else but gifts with which G-d favors us, and not our rightful due.  As long as I was to determined to hold these erroneous views, my very prosperity was a source of danger for me.  There was the danger that this outward prosperity might give rise to an indifference to moral evil.  At that time, however, G-d snatched me from the peril of such error by disturbing my state of happiness and prosperity and taught me the following lesson:

"No longer was I the object of Your special care, and my happy state abruptly ended and I was overcome with fright.  This experience, however, taught me to turn away from all my superficial human relationships and back to G-d, Who is ever-ready to grant a new future to those who seek it.  Therefore, I have learned to look to G-d Himself, Who sent me sorrow, for renewed favor and assistance."

The erection and dedication of the House of G-d symbolizes the sum total of all that is required of us during our sojourn here on earth: To be aware of G-d and to serve Him every moment of our lives.  In the opening of his gospel, John describes the Messiah, Who would later identify Himself with the Temple of G-d, in this way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with G-d, and the Word was G-d.  He was in the beginning with G-d.   All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made . . .  and the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth  (John 1:1-3; 14).

G-d with us, dwelling among us.  The temple which would be destroyed and in three days raised to life.  The One to Whom each day of our lives is to be dedicated.  The same One who said to a skeptical Nathanial, I tell you the truth, you will see greater things than these, for hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of G-d ascending and descending, not upon Jacob's ladder, but upon the Son of Man, Who is the way, the truth, and the life.  

2 comments:

  1. There is nothing on earth that upholds or supports us.

    This. Exactly.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Rabbi for your constructive and helpful thoughts. Sometime will you expound on Revelation 2:6 and the "deeds of the Nicolaitans"?

    ReplyDelete