Monday, 7 June 2010

Reflections on Building the Beit HaMikdash

The holy books write in the name of the holy Zohar that during the time of the First Temple, had the Jewish people guarded the aspect of peace in the world as they should have done, they would have merited Moshiach and the true redemption. 

The Chofetz Chaim in Shemirat HaLashon points out that the way to achieve peace is to concentrate all our efforts upon removing from ourselves the attribute of baseless hatred to another – eventually expressed in our bad language and speech. What does it mean to have baseless hatred of another? Does anybody today really hate another for no reason? 

Imagine this scenario: You find yourself in a new place – a far away land, and you confront a fellow Jew whom you have never met before. He looks quite different to you. Perhaps you wear denims and he a smart suit. Perhaps your hair is grown, yet his is shaved save for his long Peyot which hang gracefully on either side of his face. You shave (using an electric shaver of course!) yet his beard hangs – perhaps even looking a little untidy!

Before you have a chance to even greet him, you turn up your nose with feelings of disgust. Not even a hello, not even a question in to finding out his personality. His very looks turn you off. This is baseless hatred. Perhaps his voice is higher than yours, or lower. Perhaps he is thinner or larger. One turns towards the other and feels uncomfortable. This is baseless hatred. When one finds oneself in such a situation, one must grab a hold of oneself and come to one's senses in realising that the other is very much the same as oneself. It is only the outer garments that make for a difference in personalities. But in truth, one is exactly the same (see Tanya Chapter 32.) The root of both souls emanates from the exact same place – no matter how the souls end up looking as they reach this world. 

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that one must love a fellow Jew – even someone one has never seen in one's life before. How easy it is to turn one's face away from another one doesn't know. But how much of a challenge it is to smile, to acknowledge and to the love the other – no matter what – especially when one doesn't even know them.

Peace. This is our goal. Had we had it in the days of the First Temple, Moshiach would have revealed himself and we would have already been living in the times of redemption. 

Each day that passes by gives us the unique opportunity to turn the situation around. It can be done. But it starts with each of us – each and every moment of the day. Just imagine in your own mind the wonderful feeling of finding out that the Jew who you've never even seen before – is the most special person in the entire world. Were you only to get to know them correctly and spend much time with them, you would love them as your best friend! As you now encounter that Jew whom you have never seen before, the baseless hatred that may have its opportunity to awaken itself with a variety of claims and excuses about the other, turns into nothing more than a baseless love. Imagine that!

It's never over, because we must imagine that if we turn it around right now – this moment, that the peace that was expected of us then – is the peace demanded of us today. Our duty is to grab hold of this opportunity facing us right now – and to make a change and to truly see the other for who he is. If one does not yet know – then he should investigate until indeed he can see the wonderful qualities of the other.

What would one give to know that he took part in the building of a fine palace?! What would be if the king invited each of the citizens to donate a small donation in honour of the finest physical building to be built – that his name would be engraved on a plaque especially for him for having made his contribution? What would he give to know that an entire section of the palace had been built exclusively for him for his small physical donation? Would he be prepared to donate the dollar – or perhaps two? Would he not give of his wealth – immediately – to know that his money was going towards the most important physical project in the world?!

Yet the building of the Beit HaMikdash today – right now – is not only about the physical act of charity that will most certainly hasten its building. Rather, every moment we turn to another in kindness – no matter what it be. Every moment we turn to the other with baseless love. Never having seen the other, we choose not to make a judgment – ever. We choose instead, to do the best we can to find the good points of the other to see those parts of the other that make us have no other feeling than love. Here is our very contribution to the building of this wonderful structure. Of course, it's not just a physical structure, but rather it contains within it the ultimate spiritual blessings we are all in need of – right now!

The ultimate blessing comes when the attribute of peace is rectified. When suddenly there is nothing but peace within our own hearts towards every other Jew. This – says the Chofetz Chaim – is the ultimate key, the ultimate donation towards the most wonderful "building" in the world – the one that brings peace to each of us in absolute perfection. Our words are powerful – as are our very thoughts. When we feel baseless hatred to another – G-d forbid – this leads to us talking badly of them too. Our responsibility now is to focus on that good, the beautiful, to share it where and when it counts the most and in this way bring goodness to everyone.

Are you prepared to give a dollar to see your name engraved on a plaque in the king's palace with a room dedicated to you? Our donation is not in the exclusive domain of what we think dollars are all about. Our dollar can be that simple characteristic of seeking peace – as did Aharon HaKohen do. Sometimes, of course, the giving of a dollar can do wonders in breaking the ice of bringing peace to others too. The goal however is not the dollar, it is not the physical building. It is the flow of peace from one person who has it… to another who still lacks it – and needs it at that point in his life. Together, the air is purified making a true dwelling place for G-d to rest His Divine Presence in this world – as the Temple descends from above to below and we all rejoice with the greatest of blessings!

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