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ב"ה

WHAT IS YOUR SPARK IN LIFE?

Friday, 25 February, 2022 - 12:32 pm

A young lawyer, starting up his private practice, was very anxious to impress potential clients. When he saw the first visitor to his office come through the door, he immediately picked up his phone and spoke into it, making believe he was talking to someone.

 "I'm sorry, but my caseload is so tremendous that I'm not going to be able to look into your problem for at least a month. I'll have to get back to you then." He then turned to the man who had just walked in, and said, "Now, what can I do for you? Make sure to do this fast, as I am in a mad rush, as you can see from the endless telephone calls of clients."

"Nothing," replied the man. "I'm here to hook up your phone.”

In this week’s Torah portion Vayakhel discusses the actual building of the Tabernacle that later was used in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the three annual pilgrimage festivals Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot, when the entire community of Israel would come to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the vessels of the Temple were exposed to contact with many individuals, including some who might not have been well-versed in the complex laws of ritual purity. Thus, following each festival, all the vessels of the Temple were immersed in a mikvah to cleanse them of any possible contamination by a visitor who might have been ritually impure.

There were two exceptions. The two altars—both made of wood but plated with metal. Now, the law is that “wooden vessels that are used only in a fixed place are not susceptible to contamination.” The two altars the indoor “Golden Altar” and the outdoor “Copper Altar”, which were used only in their fixed places, were made of wood, and covered with gold or copper.

The Sanctuary is more than a physical edifice dedicated to the service of G-d; it is also the model after which man is to construct his own self and life as a “sanctuary” to house and express the divine. G-d commanded that “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I shall dwell within them”; as our sages point out, “The verse does not say ‘I shall dwell within it’ but ‘I shall dwell within them,’ meaning, within each one of them.” Thus, the Torah describes in detail the various components and vessels of the Sanctuary, for they each correspond to another of the faculties and attributes that comprise the human being.

When one studies the Sanctuary from this perspective, it all comes to life in a new way. We have here a map of the human psyche and all its “neurons,” of the entire human organism, with all its faculties.  The works of Jewish philosophy, and Kabbalah dedicate much space to try to excavate some of these truths.

Many of the vessels of the human “sanctuary,” representing a person’s various intellectual and emotional faculties, may, at times, become tainted by various influences and they need an immersion in a mikvah. My thoughts, instincts, moods, cravings, inclinations, emotions, feelings, attitudes, perspectives, can all become tarnished and contaminated in some way. We are prone to depression, despair, sadness, anger, hopelessness, addiction, confusion, envy, and proclivities.

But the “altars” of the soul, her capacity for complete devotion and sacrifice for her creator, are not susceptible to contamination.

True, this inner core of purity is not always visible or readily accessible. It may be coated by “gold” or by “copper.” The glitter of material life, represented by gold, or, conversely, the despair of hardship and poverty, represented by copper, may obscure the soul’s intrinsic commitment to her G-d. Sometimes too much money or too little money can derail our beautiful pure essence.

They may eclipse it but never ever destroy it. The coatings are ultimately subservient and secondary in the face of the incorruptible wellspring of sacrifice within—of our pure, endless, powerful oneness with G-d, we always have, in all places, and under all circumstances.

 I once read a letter from the Rebbe to a Jew, who wrote to him, after challenging the Rebbe about many fundamental principles of Judaism. “If you would meet me and get to know me personally, probably your opinion of me would be better.”

To that, the Rebbe wrote back: “Let me assure you that my opinion of you is, in all likelihood, far superior to your opinion about yourself!”

My colleague Rabbi Aaron Moss from Sydney once received this question in an email:

Dear Rabbi,

Although I was raised in a traditional home, was brissed and bar mitzvah…I have never had any faith or “religious” belief. I am now aged 34 and would describe myself as an atheist. I have no wish to be buried in a Jewish cemetery and have married a non-Jew in a civil ceremony.

My question is, can I consider myself officially non-Jewish, by my effective opting-out, or do I need some sort of form or dispensation to be officially no longer Jewish?

Many thanks for your help with what is perhaps an unusual question.

Best wishes,

Edward

Here was his wonderful and truthful response:

Dear Edward,

I would like to help you, but I feel there’s nothing I can do.

According to your question, you have done everything possible to negate your Jewishness: in practice, you do not keep Jewish tradition; in belief, you are an atheist…and even in death you are determined not to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

One would think that all this would be enough to confirm your un-Jewishness. But no. for some reason, you are still unsatisfied: you still feel Jewish. So much so, you feel you need official dispensation.

And so, being an atheist, to whom do you turn to solve this problem? A doctor? A psychiatrist? The civil celebrant that married you. No… You turn to a rabbi!!!

I’m reminded of the child who ran away from home but ended up just going round and round the block because his parents told him never to cross the road by himself.

I’m sorry, Edward. There is nothing more you can do. You are as Jewish as Moses, Woody Allen, and the Chief Rabbi of Wales. And you always will be. There is nothing you can do to change it.

In fact, it seems that being Jewish is the most dominant facet of your personality. It is even influencing the place you want to be buried. (Why would an atheist care about where they are buried?)

Edward, Jewishness is not a belief, a feeling, a conviction, or a lifestyle. It is a state of being. You have a beautiful Jewish soul.

You can either celebrate it or fight against it. But it will always be there. So why not celebrate it?

 Every Jew has what is called a Jewish soul-spark that can never be snuffed out. No matter how far a Jew strays, no matter how vociferously he repudiates his Jewish roots or how diffidently she ignores her Jewish soul, or how many decades have elapsed immersed in a different religion, the Jewish spark is always there, ready to be ignited anew.

The Jewish spark, the pintle Yid, in each of us, is waiting to burst into flames of joy, love, and fulfillment.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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