Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah-T’rumah

The mystics teach that at the time of creation, “God” created two worlds. Torah teaches that God “spread out the Heavens and established the Earth.” Of course, there is a poetic symmetry to the phrase, because they are mirror worlds. The Greek philosopher Plato argued that the earth was the reflection of the reality existent in only the heavens. The universe is a lot more “vast” than the confines of the geometrically finite Earth. My take, the Earth is the “Cliff’s Notes” version of the unquantifiable Heaven.

No differently than a baby connects and depends on the stability of its mother’s health, so too, our earth’s existence depends on the state of the cosmos. The baby, while in utero, is never physically connected to mom. It exists and matures inside mom via the fluids and nutrients that pass and exchange through mom’s womb. At birth, the baby and its food filter (placenta) leave the womb. Our newborn now exists and grows on its own. Despite the reality that babies each float in its mother’s womb, our tradition would never describe mom’s role as the source of food for emerging life, nor the fetus as a separate, unrelated entity from its mother.

So, too, our earth formed from the flow of the universe. It existed in the universe’s womb, formulating and maturing through the process of its birth. Scripture tells us that it was not a definable life until God finished the work of creation and separated the child from its embryonic home. I posit that the seven days of creation mirror the seven months of gestation to the point where a child is viable outside the womb. In the same light, Torah speaks of a 40-year journey from slavery to freedom; 40 is roughly the number of weeks bringing a baby to full term and to a place where the infant begins moving body parts with intention.

Somehow, the infant never fully separates from its mother; an intangible bond keeps them tied forever. In the same sense, while the earth spins on its own axis, one could never claim it is not absolutely tied to the forces of the heavens from which it spawned. We debate to which behaviors, appearances, health, and idiosyncratic tendencies are a result of nature or nurture. It seems evident that the answer is, “Yes.” We are bound to our genomes; our DNA. We are equally influenced by the ways in which our surroundings influence our life choices. Along the way, we bear the responsibility to stand on our own, yet never lose touch with the people and the places from where we came. There are aspects of who we are and how we lie that tie us spiritually and physically to our roots. The relationships between the Earth and the Heavens created this paradigmatic rule upon which all life exists and evolves. My eyes and receding hairline link me to my father. Looking at his Bar Mitzvah picture, he is even more indistinguishable from my son.

Our Torah portion tells us to build a sanctuary for God, so that God may dwell amongst us. God tells us to remember, through the tangible (the sanctuary), the unbreakable bond that ties us to our creative parent. Relying again on the parent-child relationship to understand the context of this command, I know that no matter where I find my feet, my identity is always tied to my spiritual and genetic roots. So, where is this sanctuary that God commands Israel to build? If it were only one place in the world, God could have only limited relationships and even smaller sphere of influence. The Tabernacle in the wilderness, the Temple in Jerusalem and temples around the world, the churches, mosques, ashrams, meeting houses, and all other structures are only symbolic reminders of our obligation to ensure the sanctity of sanctuaries in which God can dwell. Philo, the leader of the ancient Alexandrian Jewish community taught that we are the sanctuaries God commanded to build. Our souls are the altars upon which we passionately offer every act of justice, righteousness, contrition, thanksgiving, and love. We are the sanctuaries of which God spoke, and at the level in which this impacts each of us, it is not tied to religion, culture, gender, race, or even age. Our hearts feel the impact of the spiritual embrace and rejection from people of all walks of life. To own that God dwells amongst us, we need to understand that we are the vessels through which God acts and speaks. God is amongst us, when we acknowledge that there exists divinity in each of us … anything short, anything that makes us think that it vests in some and not others is not faith, it is at best superstition, and at worst fanaticism. We honor our parents when we honor the love they shared with us. We honor God the same way. Shabbat Shalom.