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Parshas Vayikra / Zachor - From Head to Toe8 Adar II 5782

03/11/2022 12:59:37 PM


Roof and underground fixing of Life are always moving; sometimes life is calm, settled, simply serene while other times we find ourselves treading on thin ice. There are two extremes to life which accompany us all: we need to have a roof over our heads and we must always strive to be on solid ground. This reminds me of some major issues the Shul has been dealing with for several years.  My hypothesis is that both these structural issues of the building are the result of one cause.

As our beautiful Shul building approaches its half-century mark, we are beginning to see some problems emerge on both the interior and exterior of the structure. Even more than the aesthetics, the “kishkes” of the building were  not doing well. The roof, while able to provide protection from the cold and the sun, could no longer shield us from the rain. Instead, it began to drip in some places while in others an umbrella was needed if you wished to remain for kiddush. The second issue, a major one from the onset, was that the Shul had been built on a canyon that was “filled” but not compacted well. With erosion over time and the shifting of the unstable California earth, the Shul building started to sag and sink in certain places around the social hall. My feeling is that when the foundation began to sink, the structure supporting the roof began to slightly break apart, creating cracks,  allowing water to seep through.

The Shul first invested in repairing the sinking floor and then addressed the roofing issues.  To stabilize the shifting and sinking of the floor, a company specializing in this work strategically created three subterranean concrete support beams. Once the ground was stabilized, a new roof treatment was applied to the entire Shul. No sooner was that completed then, low and behold, it stopped raining! I don’t mean to imply that we’ve had clear skies ever since. To the contrary, we’ve had a few downpours that really put the new roofing to the test. As far as we can see - and feel - we’ve returned to indoor dryness. Over time, these two projects are the kinds of expensive investments from which we tend not to view with any positive benefits.  In fact, it is almost a phrase termed as “sinking money into the ground” and “keeping dry”, but – and this is a very big but - it actually worked! As I walk through the building, I feel uplifted from the ground and covered from above.   

The notion of covering from above and having a solid foundation on the bottom are not exclusive to the physical realm; it applies to the spiritual realm as well. In the opening words of this week’s Parsha Vayikra the Torah states in 1:1 "ויקרא אל משה, וידבר ה' אליו מאהל מועד לאמר"  “God called to Moshe, speaking to him from the Communion Tent”. Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk asks, ”What is so different about this time when Hashem speaks to Moshe in contrast to all others?” He explains with a Midrash Rabbah Aleph that up until the Mishkan and the Ohel Moed/tent of meeting were erected there were other times Moshe had spoken with God. Hashem spoke with Moshe at the burning bush, as well as in Midian, and, of course, at Har Sinai. Nevertheless, once the Tent of Meeting was established, it was said, ‘how beautiful is modesty’, as is quoted from Micha 6:8 "והצנע לכת עם אלוקיך"  “walk modestly with your God”. The Kotzker asks, “…but wasn’t it a private meeting between Hashem and Moshe at the  the burning bush? And in Midian, Moshe had a secluded place to talk with Hashem. For we know, these were private meetings. Only Moshe heard Hashem. No one else heard those words.”

Prior to the Mishkan, God revealed Himself without limitation and confinement. Since Hashem was not limited or confined, it was possible that even a maidservant crossing the Sea of Reeds was able to ‘see’ even that which Yechezkel and other Prophets had not seen. But when the Mishkan was erected. things changed; the dynamics of God’s presence was felt in a different way. From the time the Mishkan was erected, ‘tzimtzum’- constriction - came into existence. Tzimtzum is a limitation or condensation of Hashem’s presence to a confined area. The Mishkan provided a greater level of Tznius/modesty since it covered and constricted Hashem within. Since it was enclosed, it had a new level of modesty, it received a special importance, more so than any earlier time when Hashem had spoken to Moshe. God was not ‘all around’ but much more intimate and private to Moshe; that was the specialty of Vayikra! And so, full coverage of a roof affords a greater level of importance, delivering a stronger message when completely enclosed.

The flooring of the Mishkan had a unique aspect as well. The mizbeiach/altar was the primary focal point of the building. According to Maimonidies, the prime purpose of the Mishkan was the offering of sacrifices to Hashem. According to the Ramban, the primary purpose was solely to get closer to Hashem. In theory, they are not arguing. Rather, the Rambam offers the mechanism of how to get closer to Hashem. After sprinkling blood on the ‘top’ part of the Mizbeiach for a variety of sin and guilt offerings, the Kohein poured the remaining blood down two pipes that led out to the Kidron valley in Yerushalayim. One of the reasons provided was that the Kohein, who had sinned would in full view of the people, would pour out blood from his own sin, demonstrating to all that even he sins. No one should be embarrassed to come forth, repent, and attain atonement in an open full-view fashion. Nevertheless, it is the leftover blood that is poured out, discarding the unwanted part of the sacrifice to go underground and not be a part of the sacrifice itself. The blood was collected at the bottom and sold as fertilizer for ‘ordinary’ use, not being Hekdesh/holy, and the proceeds went to the Temple treasury. We see a complete separation between the offering of atonement and the discarded remainder blood. So too, a building needs to have a solid base, a solid foundation, to maintain a distance between the good and the unwanted.

In our daily lives we look up and we look down. We look up to see from where our protection comes and carefully walk on solid ground not to trip and fall. The challenge in our own sanctuaries is to create a place where we relate and see Hashem in His constriction, just for each and every one of us and our families away from the rest of the world. As we move ever closer to Hashem, we check our footing, building – and strengthening - the foundation by discarding that which we no longer need, and complete that holy home for our children, our families, our communities, and for the entire Jewish people. That is the message of “the calling in our tent of meetings”.        

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, August 16 2022 19 Av 5782