giovedì 26 febbraio 2009


Our little son Dov is already one year old. He stands up, sometimes leans on the bookshelf’s lower part; he is beginning to walk, and enjoys it. Most than everything, Dov loves to tricycle. He seats on the saddle, starts running, lifts up his feet, and smiles, as the tricycle brings him in some corner of the house. Dov and I love to play hide-and-seek. I hide myself crouching behind the armchair and call his name out loud; he searches all over the room, slowly on his tricycle, till the moment he discovers me. Our eyes meet, we smile. Then I pretend to run after him while he goes as fast as possible on his tricycle; suddenly he turns right and stops, looking up to Abba, me. Our eyes meet again, we laugh.
To hide, to call out loud; to seek, through several attempts; to discover in unexpected places. Then smiling in an outburst of joy. Isn’t this the same pattern of our relationship with God? We might think that to express our relationship with God through a family repertoire is typical of a middle class, bourgeois Jewry. We might think also that this kind of relationship with the Holiness, that comes in touch with the daily life, through the glance of a child’s eyes, is proper of our Buberian, contemporary, sensitivity. Isn’t this too personal a way to figure out our relationship with God?
Indeed, Parasha Terumah suggests that no, it isn’t. The Children of Israel are commanded to build a Sanctuary, with its tabernacle, to contain the two stone tablets of the Decalogue; with its decoration, furniture and appurtenances, whose intricate simbology stimulated countless exegetical fantasies; and with its borders: roof, curtains, and enclosures. These are meant to separate the tabernacle from the profane space, to delimitate the space where is manifest the presence of God, and where can take place the relation with the Eternal One. Indeed, a great length of this parasha is devoted to explain how the Sanctuary has to be built, while just one verse is devoted to explain the reasons why such a building has to be built. We find them in Exodus 25:8, ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם, “Let they make a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them”. As Menahem Mendl of Kotzk famously explains, the text does not say: “in it” – in the Sanctuary itself, but “among them” –among the Children of Israel. Each person must build the Tabernacle in his own heart, then God will dwell among them (1).
Some parts of the Tabernacle are composed: the roof consists of layers of different material, meaning that each of us relates with God in a different way. Some other parts, like for example the golden menorah, are to be made from a single block; which is a powerful exhortation to integrity. The same pure gold overlays the inner and the outer side of the ark; it means that our interior, individual, devotion must be of the same material of our external, social, actions. Such a Tabernacle is an enduring one. It has been carried by the Children of Israel in their hearts during the journey in the wilderness. It came together with us in the Exile, when the Temple of Jerusalem has been destroyed. That Temple that was, as we all know, very different from the portable Sanctuary carried in the desert: each generation builds different places of worship according different needs.
We have notions about the building of the Sanctuary, enough to figure out what the exterior must look like, but this parasha does not say anything about what happened behind these curtains. Not a single word of this parasha explains what took place in the deepest section of the Sanctuary, where God, who is supposed to be everywhere, used to manifest in a particularly intense, and maybe periodical, way. We just know that a building, a place exists; but we do not know what happens inside. This text is totally mute about the modalities of the relationship with God. Menahem Mendl of Kotzk would say that we are commanded to build our inner Sanctuary and we have some instructions about the process; but we are left without words to explain what would happen there.
As the Sanctuary was surrounded by curtains, delimitated by enclosures and roof, our interior Tabernacle is built deeply in our hearts; sometimes is impossible to find the proper words to explain what is going on down there. So we employ images, metaphors, like the one I began with, the relation between father and son. And we are not sure where God exactly is, whether in the protective look of the father, or in the joyous glance of the son, or in the enduring, continuous, unspoken relationship between different generations.

(1)Torah Gems, by A. Y. Greenberg, Yavne, Tel Aviv, 1998, vol. II, pag. 172

Leo Baeck College, 26 February 2009

1 commento:

Piero P. ha detto...

Molto bella davvero quell'immagine della 'ricerca' di Lui paragonata a quella che fate tu e Dov. Davvero stupenda. Mi sembri davvero un padre piuttosto bravo... tanti auguri per la prima candelina del vostro Dov (anche se penso di essere in ritardo...).