Friday, January 18, 2008

This is my God, and I will build Him an Abode

The Midrash (Mekhilta, Beshalach, Massekhta de-Shira parsha 3 s.v. zeh keli) states that a maid-servant at the splitting of the Red Sea beheld a Divine Revelation that was greater and more sublime than anything witnessed by either Isaiah or Ezekiel. Either way, I can't but feel jealous. It really is true, that the hardest, and the ultimate, punishment in the retributions listed in Deueronomy is God's hiding His Face from us (הסתר פנים; Deut. 31, 18); in the fact that His Providence and Presence are so hidden from view. Yes, this millennial circumstance has forced us to grow up and work with belief. It forces the Jew to sacrifice and exert himself in order to maintain his faith, his bearing, his spiritual balance, his sanity, his humanity.

It also hurts, indescribably.

Recently, as a result of a conjunction of events, my own sense of existential isolation and angst has been particularly heightened. I would have given anything for a smidgen of what the maid-servant apprehended at the Red Sea. It is, however, God's decree that we rely on our faith in Him, and in Him Alone. Ironically, though, that faith is not something distant. His decisions do not only compel us from His transcendence.

In fact, the very song that immortalizes the maid-servant's insight provides the balm for the tortured souls who live in a world of Hester Panim. זה א-לי ואנוהו, says Moses. 'This is my God, and I will build Him an Abode.' The abode, as the Sfas Emes (Terumah, 5648 s.v. במדרש עילית) is Israel. It is us. As the Rov זצ"ל taught us, though, the Jews are the Abode as individuals, not as a collective. Our relationship with God is both unique and incommunicable. We reach out to Him, and He graciously responds to the invitation. 'This is my God,' - We extol Him from a distance, 'and I will build Him an Abode' - within my soul.

This tremendous Divine חסד is the only balm for the aching loneliness that is our constant companion and that threatens to overwhelm us in times of adversity (in their myriad degrees of intensity).

How did the Kotzker put it? וואו געפינט זיך דער בורא עולם? וואו מאן לאזט אים אריין. [ "Where is God?" And he replied, "Wherever one lets him in."]

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