Introduction

“Because of our sins,” we say in the Musaf prayer recited on the festivals, “we were exiled from our land and driven from our soil. No longer are we able to ascend to show ourselves and bow before You, and perform our obligations in Your chosen home, in the great and holy house upon which Your name is called.”

The 613 mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah are a bridge – the means by which man achieves connection with his Creator. Today, however, we are capable of achieving only a limited fulfillment of the mitzvot: there are hundreds of mitzvot that can be observed only when the Holy Temple is standing in Jerusalem and the entire community of Israel resides in the Holy Land. So our current state of galut (exile) is much more than a physical displacement.

Before we were driven from our land and the House of G-d was taken from us, all Jews would make the thrice-yearly pilgrimage to the Holy Temple “to see and be seen by the face of G-d”. But since the destruction of the Temple and our exile from the Holy Land, these venues of connection with G-d have been closed to us.

The Talmud (Pesachim 86b) cites an interesting rule of etiquette governing guest-host relations: “Whatever the host instructs, you must do, except when he says: ‘Get out of my house.'”

Chassidic teaching applies this to our relationship with G-d: as “guests” in G-d’s world we must obey all that He instructs us to do–except when He tells us to “Get out”. When He banishes us from His presence we are not to obey, but to persist in our efforts to come close to Him. So even as we submit to its decrees, we dos not reconcile ourselves with the phenomenon of galut. When G-d commands, “Do this” or “Do not do this,” we obey; yet we refuse to accept the galut per se, refuse to accept the closing of venues in our relationship with G-d.

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