During the three weeks, between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av we give extra thought to the destruction of the Temples. But, the Temples were not identical. There were some major differences. If you played the “spot the difference” game between the First and Second Temples you would notice, among other things, that the Second Temple lacked the holy ark. The ark, which resided in the Holy of Holies, held both the broken tablets and the second set of tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them. Obviously, the ark was a very important and prominent feature in the Tabernacle and the Temple, as the holder of the tablets. However, what was on top of the Ark was perhaps even more important. Carved from gold on top of the Ark were Keruvim known as Cherubs in English. While we don’t know exactly what they looked like, we do know how they were made and the role they played. These figures had wings which spread out towards each other. It was between the Cherubs where God chose to speak to Moses and later the High Priests.
After we were taken out of Egypt, and received the Torah, God told us that He was going to live among us. "They shall make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." (Ex. 25:8) God came to be with us, so to speak, in the Tabernacle and later in the First Temple. However, He did not dwell among us in the Second Temple. Nevertheless, the Jews did continue to go daily to the Second Temple. And on the Shalosh Regalim, the Three Pilgrimage Festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, Jews came from far distances to go up to the Temple. The High Priests continued to enter the Holy of Holies but it obviously was not as holy.
Let’s give this a bit of thought. The Second Temple was missing a key component of God. (Besides the tablets and the ark there were also other things missing from The Second Temple indicating that God was no longer dwelling among us.) Nevertheless, the Jews kept the Temple as their focus of religious life. The situation is like a husband and wife carrying on their marriage even though one partner does not talk to the other. One partner tries to keep the communication open. He or she keeps talking and sharing and doing for the other in the hope that the other partner will eventually respond and become close again – a real partner. (This is not to suggest that God is not involved in our “marriage,” however, we may feel that He is not with us or as involved because He is not as present.)
Fast forward to today. We don’t have the ark. We don’t have the cherubs. We don’t have any Temple. But, we can still work on our relationship with God. The other day, a friend told me that she likes washing dishes. Okay, some people like to wash dishes, even if most people don’t. But then she left me speechless. She told me that when she washes dishes, she uses the time to talk to God. Really, all I can say is, “WOW!” This is the attitude and the fortitude that we need! I don’t think I will ever look at washing dishes the same again.
Do I expect God to talk to me, while I wash dishes in my home? No. But, just as the Jews kept talking to God in the Second Temple, we can talk to God and hope that maybe He will decide at some point that we are worthy, once again, for Him to be closer to us. Certainly, we don’t expect God to make the first move in bringing us closer. We are the ones who have to show our worthiness to Him.
On one hand, talking to God should not be so trivial that we take it lightly. On the other hand, how much better would we be if we could talk to God while we did trivial things? Imagine if we could take our everyday chores like washing dishes and sorting laundry and turn them into inspirational moments. I’m sure it wouldn’t come easily all the time, or at the beginning any of the time. But if we try, I bet that slowly we could make more and more moments spiritual. And just maybe, if enough of us make “ordinary moments” “spiritual moments” enough times, God will see that we know that we have to work on our relationship, are serious about it and that we are trying. We must not give up. No matter where we are now in our relationship with God, we can always work to make it closer and more meaningful.
Marcia Goldlist is a regular contributor of blog postings on Jewish Values Online. She was the author of one of the blog postings selected for the Second Quarter 5779 Jewish Values Online Best Blogs.
Please note: All opinions expressed in Blog Postings and comments on the Jewish Values Online site and through Jewish Values Online are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, beliefs, or position of Jewish Values Online, or those associated with it.
Is there a value to attending daily organized prayer groups (minyans) [quorum of 10] at a synagogue or temple if we don’t feel like we are connecting to structured prayer?
See answers from Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis here.
If you have a question about Jewish values that you would like to ask rabbis from multiple denominations, click here
to enter your question. We will ask rabbis on our panel for answers and post them. You can also search
our repository of over 800 questions and answers about Jewish values.
For more great Jewish content, please subscribe in the right-hand column. Once you confirm your subscription, you'll get an email whenever new content is published to the Jewish Values Online blog.