D’var Torah: Where does G-d live?

Rabbi Shmully Litvin

Do you remember when you moved into your first apartment away from your parents, or when you first walked into your new house?
When Duby and I returned to Louisville and moved into our house, it was quite the adjustment from the single bedroom apartment, and it took some time to make that house our own. If you ask Duby, we are still working at it –
every day.
Recently, we were blessed with a son. As we brought Gavi into his room I wondered: What will make this house into his home? Will he connect with the artwork on the walls or the music that we play? Will the delicious smells from the kitchen of his favorite meals and baked goods bring that sense of security and comfort that a home should have?
It may be some of these things or it may be all of them. It may be different things, not just for Gavi, but for each of us. We work every day to create a space for ourselves and our family to thrive and grow.
What do you think it would take to outfit G-d’s house?
For almost 1,000 years, G-d had a home in the center of the land of Israel. Known as the Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple), it served as the place where G-d’s children could come together to celebrate with G-d.
Three times a year, the Jewish nation came together in pilgrimage to the Holy Temple. The miracle of Chanukah took place there, and many phenomenal events mentioned in the Talmud occurred daily in the Temple. Alas, it was destroyed. Our ancestors were forced out of Israel.
So where do you think G-d is residing now?
Next Sunday, July 1, we begin the annual three-week period of mourning and sadness over the destruction of the Holy Temple. We will spend time praying, singing, crying and yearning for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash. Each Jew is invited and encouraged to use this time of remembrance to make a personal journey, to consider what was, what it meant and what we felt.
On Saturday Night, July 21, Jews around the world will mark Tisha B’Av (the Ninth of Av), the day of the breaking of the Ten Commandments, the destruction of the First and Second Temples and numerous other calamities that have befallen our nation. Each congregation will offer chances to experience our loss of G-d’s home, through prayer, meditation and song.
During the first three Thursdays of July, I will lead an audio-visual journey to visualize and experience the wonderful structure that once sat upon the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. When Jewish Louisville celebrates Israel at 70 in August, we will participate with an archeological exhibit where one can dig up relics from the Temple period, bringing the past to life and helping to visualize the future Temple.
While we yearn for the Temple to be rebuilt, our sages have taught that we can act today. As we design our personal homes and spaces, we have the chance to create our own mini-Temple, a place in our hearts and homes where we can connect to the spark of G-d that we each contain. We are all created in G-d’s image and are thus empowered to be bearers of G-d’s light and goodness. All we need to do is keep working to make G-d feel at home, and sharing this warmth and light with our family, friends and community.
I wish everyone a most meaningful journey and look forward to witnessing the greatest home improvement reality show ever: the building of the Third Temple. Amen.

(Rabbi Shmully Litvin, director of the Jewish Learning Center, teaches at the Louisville Jewish Day School and the Louisville Beit Sefer Yachad religious school.)

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