Wednesday, January 4, 2012

So Many Choices

On the Hebrew calender, today is the Tenth of Tevet. It is the day, long ago, that the walls of Jerusalem were breached, which ultimately lead to the destruction of the Holy Temple. As Rabbi Richman has taught, I ask myself, what does the Tenth of Tevet have to do with me? What can I learn from that dark day in history?

There are so many layers of meaning and function to the Holy Temple. One of those layers is that the Holy Temple represents us. At the heart of the Holy Temple is the Holy of Holies. That inner sanctum represents our inner sanctum; our heart.

Relatively speaking, the walls of Jerusalem were a distance away from the Holy of Holies. Yet the breach that began a distance away, led to the eventual defilement of the Holy of Holies.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking there are two categories of choices and/or of mitzvah. Big and small. The Tenth of Tevet reminds me that all choices and all mitzvah are big. Every choice I make has a ripple effect. Every choice I make impacts not only me, but my family, and others around me. And often unbeknownst to me, my choices impact people I don't even know.

On the Tenth of Tevet I ask myself, "Am I allowing any breaches (choices) in my life that will eventually lead to the defilement of my heart?" Do I get lazy with the "small" choices in life? Those "small" choices represent just one stone in the walls of my life. But am I allowing bad or lazy "small" choices to chip away at my wall one stone at a time, until there is a breach?

My choices are the wall that surrounds my life. Those choices either form a protection around all that I hold dear in life, or they, God forbid, lead to destruction. "Through wisdom a house is built, and it is established through understanding; and through knowledge, its chambers are filled with all dear and pleasant treasures."

The Holy of Holies was filled with the ultimate treasure; the Shekinah - the Divine Presence of God. So too in my life, I have the potential to house that very treasure. Every choice I make either invites the Shekinah in my life, or God forbid, drives the Shekinah away.

Ezekiel gives us the sad account of the Shekinah - the Divine Presence leaving the Temple in stages. The Jews did not make one bad choice that lead to the departing of the Shekinah. It was a succession of bad choices that individuals made and that the people made collectively. I can't help but think that early on the Shekinah would have stopped and turned on a dime to stay, if the Jews would have stopped long enough to return to their right frame of mind and repented. If they would have just started with everyday choices, the "small" choices, and done what was right according to the Torah. If they would have just stopped the breach in their own walls which eventually lead to the destruction of their hearts. The physical walls of Jerusalem mirrored the choices the people made. So too did the Holy of Holies mirror their hearts.

The Tenth of Tevet leads me to repentance. The energy of the day beckons me to examine my own life and to fortify my walls by hopefully infusing Torah consciousness into every decision I make. Throughout the Book of Proverbs there is a clear distinction made between the fool and the wise. The Tenth of Tevet reminds me to fortify my resolve to be counted among the wise. "The wise woman, each builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands," Proverbs 14.

May we all resolve to build our own walls wisely and set our sites to being a part of rebuilding the walls of the Holy Temple. "Blessed is the man who thus endeavours daily to give hospitality to the Holy One." The ultimate hospitality will be when we invite God back to His own rebuilt Home.

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