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OUR Home as a Mikdash Meeyat

05/21/2020 04:44:12 PM


Shalom Lewis, Rabbi Emeritus

Jewish adulation of God was expressed in our early Sinaitic wanderings on the altar in the portable tabernacle. An animal was offered up as a holy gesture by a donor wishing to atone to request or to thank. When arriving in the Promised Land, altars popped up all over the ancient Israelite countryside where locals could conveniently make sacrifices. But with the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, neighborly sites were banned.
All divine gifts were to be brought to the City of David. Parochialism yielded to centrality. This pattern served us well for years until the Babylonian exile. In exile, no longer was there a Temple, a priesthood, a sacrificial culture. With brilliance, our ancestors replaced the Temple with the synagogue, the priesthood with lay leaders(ultimately morphing into rabbis), and the sacrificial culture with prayer. This pattern served us well for years, but when we returned to Judea a second Temple was built with all the previous pomp and circumstance reestablished, but with a difference. Now there was competition.
Many of the returning Jews preferred the exilic system, wanting nothing to do with Temple ritual. And so, synagogues, rabbis and prayer flourished across the land giving Jerusalem a centuries long run for its money. And then the Romans destroyed the Temple and what remained was the shul, the rabbanim and davening. Another dramatic shift, but salvation was there in Tiberius. In Yavne. In Megiddo. In Bet Shaan… and we survived for millennia with this model.
Though an invention of humans the sages referred to the synagogue as a Mikdash Meeyat, as a Little Temple, there by giving it a sacred name and holy place in our spiritual evolution. From Marrakesh to Manhattan to Hong Kong, this pattern served us well until a couple of months ago. Not the end of a forty-year desert journey. Not because of an exile nor a conquest, but because of a virus. And suddenly, our homes have been transformed.
As we Zoom past our mezuzah we enter not just our house, but a holy place no less sacred than a shul, the Temple, the tabernacle. In fact, our homes have always been places of divine fulfillment, keeping faith alive in the performance of sundry mitzvot, but now our homes have taken on a salvational identity as the new Mikdash Meeyat, as the new place of shared worship.
Our dwelling places are more than ‘Home Sweet Home’. More than Israeli art on the wall, a machzor on a shelf, a pushka on a counter. Our moments in prayer. Rising and bowing. In silent devotion and communal singing, connect us to Jerusalem , to Sinai , to God but most critically, these moments connect us to each other. There is a sad and a happy beauty in what we have created, but the tears and the joy are almost the same as when our ancestors wept and rebuilt. The difference is our Mikdash Meeyat is still standing and soon we shall return.
Wed, June 3 2020 11 Sivan 5780