Friday, March 4, 2011

PIKUDEI: Of Promises and Prayers

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Memory. We dread losing it. We are a people of memory. Our memory keeps us inoculated from false promises, treaties and illusions, false messianists and false friends.

G*d keeps his promises. Baruch She'Amar VeHaya HaOlam. He decreed it and fulfilled it. G*d is our role model of integrity- of promises made and fulfilled.

Do we have any idea how awesome it is to be alive to witness the fulfillment of G*d's promise of the ingathering of the exiles and the rebirth of Israel after untold generations of waiting? Two millenia of remembering both the Promise and the Promised Land. We remembered the promise. We never forgot. And so did G*d remember.

Our parsha this week, Pikudei, borrows its name from the Remembrance Narrative of G*d remembering His promise to Sarah Imeinu (Gen 21:1). PaKaD means "remembered" (His promise). "VeHashem PaKaD et Sarah ka'asher amar..." The first time that a word is found in the Torah is the key to its meaning and true understanding where ever it is found elsewhere in the Torah. It is that word's headquarters for its deepest meaning.

"And G*d remembered Sarah AS HE SAID HE WOULD."

G*d said he was going to give a child to Avraham and Sarah, and He did! G*d followed through on His promise. And in the Wilderness, the Midbar, the Promise is again fulfilled. In (Vayakhel) Pikudei, G*d has Israel build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the Vessels and the Vestments just as He said He would have us do back in Trumah/Titzaveh.

What spiritual meaning concerning "pakad" do we learn from this connection between Sarah Imeinu and the Mishkan of this week's parsha? We must come to understand and realize that the creation of the Mishkan/Tabernacle is essentially a recreation of the spiritual energies of Sarah's tent.

BeTzalel and Ohaliav are the appointed artisans charged with recreating that "tent." Indeed, the name BeTzalel means "in the shade of G*d," i.e., in G*d's tent, while Ohaliav means "my Father is my tent/shelter." Both their names are directly connected to the idea of the restoration of the tent of Sarah, from which the Divine radiance permeated. It was a light like that of the people of Israel which shines when they keep the Torah, a light that would spread out to the whole world and illumine all humanity with its teachings.

Sarah's light permeated her tent and granted her family a glimpse of the supernal radiance of Heaven, prefiguring Aaron's role as keeper of the eternal flame (Ner Tamid). When she passed on the light went out, but it was restored when Rivkah moved in as Yitzchak's wife. Its stewardship then passed on to Rivkah, and from her to all the holy mothers of Israel. Every Jewish woman who lights the holy lights for the Sabbath and Festivals in a sense becomes the High Priestess of her home, which we call the Mikdash Mi'at, or the Miniature Sanctuary.

Just as Adam was lonely without Chava, as Yitzchak was lonely without Rivka, so too was Israel feeling lonely in the wilderness. Modern man leads an atomized, adamized lonely life. Yet we have the secret of returning to G*d's Home. Anticipating our existential solitude, G*d instructs His Tabernacle to be built amongst us, so that He may dwell within us so as to assuage our loneliness. He will be our "Eve" in the Garden. We need only open our hearts to let Him in.

The gender form indicating G*d's Divine Indwelling Presence (Shekhina) is feminine precisely because of the feminine capacity to alleviate loneliness. Society is enriched to the degree it honors its women and valorizes the kind, compassionate and nurturing side which femininity represents. And in spite of the alleged patriarchy in Judaism, Pharisaic Judaism over the ages has been able to cultivate generation after generation of sensitive males, imbued with the gentle touch of kindness and compassion.

Avraham and Sarah together became history's first kretchmars, holy inkeepers, bestowing food and drink, kindness and compassion to all who passed by. And today, in that same tradition, Israel's Hadassah Hospital bestows medical care to all, irrespective of race and religion in a part of the world that has yet to display similar magnanimous qualities.

What else transpires which connects to Pikudei? Laughter! Sarah says (vs 6): "G*d has given me laughter..." How absurd to think that a pair of nonogenarians could have a child! And how absurd to envision a beautiful Tabernacle with its golden vessels and its elaborately woven colorful tapestries with its fabulously bedecked priesthood following meticulously choreographed rituals, serving a nation that wanders alone through the desert wilderness, save but for the company of G*d?

Just as the barrenness of Sarah could be reversed so as to produce and nurture a child, so too could the barrenness of the wilderness be reversed so as produce and nurture a particular nation's unique G*d consciousness that could enrich the world via the emanation of the Divine Light. So let us as bearers of the G*d consciousness and the sense of the absurd venture out into the world to make it a brighter and lighter place, a place of holy light and of holy laughter. Let us shed light upon the darkness. And bring laughter to those who are sad.

That's a promise, not a prayer.
Shabbat Shalom

© 2000 - 2011 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l







Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

Dedications are available.

1 comment:

Leeba said...

Nicely written and very uplifting.

Thank you,

Leeba

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!