Thursday, April 26, 2007

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My Sanctuary Shall You Revere

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

This week we read two portions of the Torah. The second is Kedoshim.

In this portion of the Torah, we are told, ”My Shabbats shall you observe and My Sanctuary shall you revere—I am Hashem.” [i]

What, if anything, does Shabbat and a sanctuary have in common? Why are we instructed about these two in the same sentence?

Shabbat frames holiness in time, and a sanctuary frames holiness in space. As far as the average person can tell, one day or the next feels the same. That is, unless we do something to make the day special. If we were to awaken from a long coma, we would not be able to tell what day of the week it was unless we saw people doing something that was done only on a specific day. Although mystically, Shabbat has a different feeling than other das of the week, to the average person one day feels just like the next. Because of this, we have to do holy things on Shabbat, in order to feel the holiness of the day. As it says, “My Shabbats shall you observe.” By observing Shabbat we will reap the spiritual benefits of the holy day.

The same concept is true about a sanctuary. To the average person, if it were not for the furnishings, one room would feel just like another. However, when we do special things in that room or furnish it in a special way, then we can feel something special there. Today’s sanctuaries are the places where we gather to pray.

In order to experience the holiness of Shabbat, all we have to do is to observe its details. Just by doing what the Torah tells us to do on this day we will automatically reap the benefits of the holy day.

But to reap the benefits of a holy place, we must do more than merely observe the rules of behavior there. We must revere that place. “Revere” means “to be in awe.” If, when we enter our holy places, we would say, “How full of awe is this place,” and try to sense a deep feeling of respect while we are there, we will experience the holiness of the place.

For instance, if one recognizes the holiness of a place of prayer, he would not walk inside with a burning cigarette in his hand. He would never even think to talk on his telephone there, but would be careful to turn it off before he entered. A spiritually sensitive person would not speak of profane subjects in a synagogue. But without paying attention to the unique atmosphere of the place, there would be no reason to maintain this level of respect.

Both Shabbat and a sanctuary can give us the experience of holiness, yet they can give us this feeling only up to the amount of effort we put into them.

[i] Lev 19:30

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