Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Mikdash Me’at- The Small Sanctuary How We Come Together as Jews Lecture 9 of series


Mikdash Me’at- The Small Sanctuary

How We Come Together as Jews


We have covered the people, the concept of Torah, God, the relation of the human to human, the relation of the human to existence. Now , we ask—how do we , as Jews, get together with each other and with God.


So in the beginning was the family gathered under tent, the head of the family slaughters lamb goat, and as the story of Noah lets us know , the blood is returned to the earth. in some sense, that ancient family gathering remained a common Jewish practice although without the poor lamb in the middle. For example, at the Shabbat table, we have two loaves of Hallah, to remind us of the two loaves that were placed in the presence of the ancient ark. we have the cup of wine because in antiquity no meal began without an offering of wine to the gods. For that reason it is still common practice for Jews to drink only wine that has been made by Jews to guarantee that it was not used in offering to a Pagan God. We have transferred that to the kiddish for one God. But now let's move to the theme of getting Jews to worship together.


First act of worship. Sacrifice; Minchah-Gift.Cain. Gen 4:3 p 14

 And it’s a flop! A bloody flop! UL’MINCHATO LO SHA’AH!

Next act of worship:10 generations later. Noah after the flood.8:20.p 31 This time, it works-we get the promise of the rainbow!


Start with Exodus- we have instructions for sacrifices.

Right after 10 Commandments, 20:24 - Mizbeach adamah.

׃With Me, therefore, you shall not make any gods of silver, nor shall you make for yourselves any gods of gold.׃Make for Me an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you.

Here is the essence of worship in the world of Temple Judaism. I give something of mine to God, God gives something to me in return-blessing. But it is even more- not all the sacrifice is burnt-the bulk it is eaten. Who eats together? Family! We ate the sacrifice in the ancient Temple in the presence of God- He got the “ reyach Nichoach”, the beautiful smell, and we ate. What better metaphor for a sense of union with God. ( PS- who still does that? The Catholics. Communion.  The wafer and wine- the body and blood of Jesus, who is the lamb, the korban.)


Who is the first person to offer a “bracha’ a Blessing for someone? Not one of ours!

Gen 14:18 


וּמַלְכִּי־צֶ֙דֶק֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ שָׁלֵ֔ם הוֹצִ֖יא לֶ֣חֶם וָיָ֑יִן וְה֥וּא כֹהֵ֖ן לְאֵ֥ל עֶלְיֽוֹן׃. 19 יט

וַֽיְבָרְכֵ֖הוּ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר בָּר֤וּךְ אַבְרָם֙ לְאֵ֣ל עֶלְי֔וֹן קֹנֵ֖ה שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָֽרֶץ׃

וּבָרוּךְ֙ אֵ֣ל עֶלְי֔וֹן אֲשֶׁר־מִגֵּ֥ן צָרֶ֖יךָ בְּיָדֶ֑ךָ וַיִּתֶּן־ל֥וֹ מַעֲשֵׂ֖ר מִכֹּֽל׃

Melchizedek, King of (Jeru)Salem,..blessed him(Abraham) and said" Blessed is Avram to God on High, Creator of Heaven and Earth.


A true prayer  There is one incident in which we have a true personal prayer. Moses, when Miriam is stricken with leprosy. אֵ֕ל נָ֛א רְפָ֥א נָ֖א לָֽהּ׃ (פ) Number 12:13 

Notice-five words. “God, please, heal, God, please, her.”  Rabbis see this as an ideal prayer. Short- to the point. So why is our prayerbook so long? It all depends on what pray means.

Is there any in the Torah itself that we must say? Shma Yisrael.Deut 6;4  Every Jew is to say it morning and evening, walking by the way, lying down- but is it a prayer? Or is it a lesson to be memorized ?

Is this a reference to an obligation to pray?

ואכלת ושבעת וברכת את־יהוה אלהיך על־הארץ הטבה אשר נתן־לך Deut 8:10   After you eat, you give blessing. That is the basis for birkat hamazon, but we don’t have any text.

So, in the first Temple period, no need for organized prayer-the Temple sacrifice brngs the people together and creates the closeness to God for the community.

But-586 BCE, The Babylonians destroy the Temple, the bulk of population,c eratinly of the upper classes, exiled to Mesopotamia.

What can be done Without a sacred Temple? Especially on an alien land?

What is happening – people gathered in small groups, at feet of religious teacher, like Ezekiel,11:16

    לכן אמר כה אמר אדני יהוה כי הרחקתים בגוים וכי הפיצותים בארצות ואהי

להם למקדש מעט בארצות אשר באו שם

Mikdash Me’ay- a small sanctuary

It is possible that there were such gatherings going back even to the time the first Temple was standing. There is the phenomenon of “ bnai neviim”, for example, followers of the neviim, who gathered around figures like Elijah . Recall, the north had its own sanctuary- Shechem- and still kept up local sanctuaries as well. These were rejected by loyalist to idea of Yahweh. Ex. Amos- denounces the priest & the sanctuary. Hints in Psalms

Prophets- reflect the idea that cultic worship is insufficient: Even while Temple is standing:

Isaiah 57:3 Fasting and sack cloth does not work. 6: To loose the binds.is the answer. P, 961-962

Hosea 6:10 כִּי חֶסֶד חָפַצְתִּי, וְלֹא-זָבַח; וְדַעַת אֱלֹהִים, מֵעֹלוֹת

 Or, even when Temple is rebuilt:Isaiah 66:3 שוחט השור מכה-איש, זובח השה עורף

 כלב, מעלה מנחה דם-חזיר, 

 מזכיר לבונה מברך אוון

Jeremiah 39:8- He refers to destruction of “ Bet haam”-House of the People( Temple Bet Am)-alongside the Temple. Would indicate some structure relating to worship parallel the Temple ( doesn’t refer to destruction of the king’s castle, for example)

Isaiah 56:7- Envisions rebuilding of temple- and now associates it with concept of prayer:

Bet-tefilati-my house of prayer and “ bet tefil;ah lechol haamim- A house of prayer for all peoples, now together with the sacrifices..

7ז והביאותים אל הר קדשי ושמחתים בבית תפלתי--עולתיהם וזבחיהם לרצון על מזבחי  כי ביתי בית תפלה יקרא לכל העמים

It is clear that with return of the people from Babylonian captivity that the idea of local gathering places for prayer and study became well rooted.

Mishmarot ( Watch) and Maamadot ( Stand)- division of the priests as representatives of 24 local districts( Mishmarot). Took turns in sending delegation to Jerusalem to officiate at daily sacrifice.The folks back home would gather at the same time, recite psalms and other prayers, study Torah.

We now that by time of start of Christianity, synagogues with some formal service were well established around the middle east as well as in Eretz Yisrael, even in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, every group of Jews had a synagogue by “ landmanschaft”-country of origin-Major synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt –larger than all the Jews who left Egypt”(!). Antioch- when we were no longer at war with the Antiochene’s , we had a synagogue there. Rome. Christian scriptures- Capernaum-Kfar Nachum.

Something else is happening in parallel:

A distancing from the Temple- power gravitates to the Temple in the absence of monarchy- At its height- Shimon Hatzadik- so glorious that legend has it that Alexander the Great bowed in worship and the Greeks thought the Jews had the perfect government-“ theocracy”. By the time of Antiochus- however, the priesthood became a corrupt institution-sold out to highest bidder. That was at core of Maccabean revolt. But that institution became corrupted as well, by vestment of title of King with title of High Priest.

With Roman takeover, High priest again fell into disrepute

Rabbinic attitudes: High Priests.

With regard to the prominent priests and those like them, Abba Shaul ben Batnit said in the name of Abba Yosef ben Ḥanin: Woe is me due to the High Priests of the house of Baitos, woe is me due to their clubs. … The power of these households stemmed from the fact that the fathers were High Priests, and their sons were the Temple treasurers, and their sons-in-law were Temple overseers [amarkalin]. And their servants strike the people with clubs, and otherwise act inappropriately.Talmud Pesachim 57a


The destruction the  Temple now cleared the ground for the great expanse of judaism through the synagogue . The synagogue would become the Temple and the people, not the priests, would become the kohanim!


So what do we mean by “synagogue”.

Greek term-A gathering of the people. Approximation for: Bet Knesset=House of Assembly.

The people need a place to gather for public and religious affairs.The Greeks would use a term, like “Knesset” gathering-the term : Ecclesia”, which becomes translated to English “ Church”.

In Arabic- prayer by bowing down-a key act in Islamic prayer-leads to Masjid- Mosque-

In all three, connotation, not just of a place for prayer, but also “assembly”- for general communal needs. For example, before Motel 6, there was the bet Knesset- there would be small rooms along the side of the building, where travelers could get a bite to eat and a place to sleep. Hence, Kiddush Fri in the synagogue, for those staying later to eat and sleep.

 What other terms-

Bet Midrash- The House of study- midrash- doresh-inquiry. That’s why we go to “shule”-Yiddish, from German, Schule. which means school. Therefore, traditional synagogue seats, would have a shelf inside to hold the siddur and tallit, and then a top on which one could put the book being studied.Just like the “shtender” that we have for Joe. Seating in pews, as we have it, is our borrowing form our Christian neighbors. More originally, there would be no chairs, rather,cushions for seating on the floor. The equivalent word in Islam is “ madrasa”, a cognate of “midrashah”, a school.

So-what do we do in shule

Nice company?

Letter to editor Bintel brief of Der Forwerts. Century ago. Why do you go to shule? Avraham-I go to talk to God. Yitzhak- I go to talk to Avraham! Synagogue- Greek- for Bet Knesset-House of Gathering. Well known that humas heal in company. (.Example from whales and dolphins)


 Kiddush,  Oneg Shabbat. Ancient Temple- the people shared their meal with God and with each other. Companion-Latin- shared bread.  Earliest synagogues were also the local motel for travelers! .Concept of “ seudat mitzvah”.

Intellectual stimulation?

Torah reading, drashah. Bet Midrash- House of Study. Shule- from “school”. Traditional synagogues were not intended to be designed like churches- structure- to observe miracle-Catholic. Or to listen to preacher “ex cathedra”.( Cathedra dMoshe) hence, cathedral. Centered instead, around Bimah- studying, The pew had a student’s table. It had a cabinet to store the books.

Bet tefilah-House of prayer.

Why not pray alone? Nothing beats a community—Rabbis emphasized: Al tifrosh min hatzibur-do not cut yourself off from the public ( because they’re not good enough).

Prayer in Minyan-kiddush Hashem. Public=Tzibur- tzadikim-beynoiim-rashaim. There is not public without including all 3. The collective prayer, form a common prayer text, bonds Jews together, across miles, and across ages.

 Please click on these links for a tour of some synagogue world wide.

Synagogues of antiquity:

Time of judges


Ancient synagogues









Famous world synagogues

My father’s











Sunday, September 4, 2022

Creating Kedushah- Holiness-in Every Day Life


Lesson Eight Creating Kedushah- Holiness-in in Every Day Life

For the video of the presentation, go to:

My teacher, Rabbi Max Kadushin, was perhaps the first academician to apply
approaches of modern anthropology to Judaism.

 Thus, in his work, the Rabbinic Mind, he demonstrated that the classic Jewish process of determining key elements of value could not be put into the straight jacket of classic philosophy. Rather, the Rabbinic Mind based itself on what he called” value-concepts”, core nouns, around which one could create statements that gave guidance in what is “ Emet v Emunah”, true and faithful. It is the outcome of a thought process he called “ organic thinking”.
With a title like “organic” it should be very popular today.
One of his favorite quips” Was You There, Charlie”.- don’t attempt to find the historicity behind any statement in Rabbinic sources, rather, look at it in the text, and see how it was used and how it played out in Jewish thought.
One of his key concepts, which brings me to the topic today:
“Normal Mysticism”.
A contradiction of sorts—Can a mystic be normal. adhering to the norms of society, existence.
Mystic- from hidden, mystery, separate from this world.
Normal- involved with the normal, the worldly, the here and now.

Thus- in classic mysticism, existence is itself “ Maya”, an illusion. Classic line of “ Bhagavad Gita”- neither you have been, nor I have been ( neither mortals nor the gods).
the emphasis on “ self-annihilation”, self-abnegation”-(“bitul hayesh”). Goal- achieving the end of the cycle of reincarnation, nirvana. Thus, the emphasis on the ideal of the monastic life, abstention from worldly involvement. We find it also in Jewish circles- the Essenes, also, some classic Rabbinic statements.
Even in this very beautiful rendition of Elohai neshamah I played last week: an Persian translation, and I assume an English translation of the Farsi
Free my soul from this body—but that is the opposite of the Hebrew text, which assures me that while God takes back my soul, it is temporary, like my sleep.
Very few people know this today, out side of academic circles, but in the two centuries after ,the year zero, the big challenge to Judaism was not from Christianity, but from a movement that crossed the lines between Jew, Christian and Pagan. Referred to as Gnosticism, and in one form or other, was in the race to become the dominant religion of the Empire.
In essence, it felt that we were souls trapped in our body, products of a malicious Creator who had fashioned a rotten universe, and that only a select few could escape it.  It had one of two solutions: Either avoid all human pleasure all together, or indulge completely in every vice imaginable.
 Some of them even adopted Cain and the Snake in the Garden as their symbol.
Rabbinic Judaism was shaped in much way as a reaction against this world view.
My teacher emphasized then, what he termed” Normal”- to find the sacred in actual life, in daily activity.
This brings us to the idea of “ kedushah”, of creating the sacred in the profane(Chol).
If we speak of Judaism as a religion, it is not a religion of posting sets of dogmas ( despite the 13 principles of the Rambam) but of addressing the question,” How do I make my daily life such that my actions become action of sanctity.
So, what do we mean by “Kodesh”.
We use, in English, the term, Holy, or Sacred, but the connotation is that which is completely other, separated, other-worldly. Scholars of religion use the term “ numinous”. Contemplation of the Holy, the other, or even an experience of “ unio mistico”, a mysterious union, are core to much religious belief—and we do find it in Jewish circles, some in Kabbalah, some in Chasidism.
But-big but- Judaism turns it back on us, as forces us to keep our nose to the grind stone- the find the Kodesh inside, not outside the world. Or, to adopt a phrase from Kabbalah- to find the “ nitztatzot hakodesh” the sparks of holiness that have been scattered through the universe and elevate them, restore them, and the matter that it in enclosed in.
So, we have terms: Kodesh
Kedushah- Kaddish- Kiddushin- Eretz Hakodesh-Kiddush Hashem
Example- God is “ Kadosh”- Isaiah-Triple Holy-Kadosh- Kadosh-kadosh.
Leviticus 19:Kedoshim tihyu—You shall be Holy-because, I the Lord your God, am Holy.
In what ways—we have the general rules of behavior, listed in the verses that follow- verses of charity and compassion, but also verses of religious obligation and personal sexual conduct. Not that those are actions that define God for us, but that in leading lives that are dedicated and focused, we parallel the existence of  God.
Thus, the children of Israel are to be” kedoshim”, separated, distinct from the hoi polio of  humanity that is guided only by the pleasure principal, the libido, the passions ( not that it is true of all civilizations, where there is always an ideal elite that has standards, but, in  truth, until the rise of religions that conveyed values in living, human life was” short, nasty and brutish.”)
How did we then carry out a life of “ Kedushah”- sanctification- without “ get thee to a nunnery” or a convent or Ashram or the Dead Sea—indeed- how did we do this when we no longer had the ceremony of the Korban- the sacrifice- from the  word” Karov”-Nearness?
Do we punish ourselves or deny ourselves?
That’s what Gandhi did:
“After taking his vows of poverty and chastity, Gandhi began setting up ashrams (essentially Hindu monasteries) to teach his ideas to others. … These ashrams took in young boys and girls and began training them to live their lives without sex. Children and adults of both genders were expected to live, sleep, and even bathe together. But any sort of sexual talk or behavior was punished. And of course, Gandhi also subjected himself to these experiments in chastity. Gandhi frequently slept and bathed with his young female followers. … Gandhi argued that it was a way for him to increase his spiritual power. …. But the opportunity to bathe or sleep with Gandhi was seen as a great honor among his followers.”
[ Gandhi also told us Jews to role over dead in the face of the Nazis. ! The Jewish-American journalist Louis Fischer, wrote a biography titled The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, (the basis for the Richard Attenborough’s Academy Award-winning film Gandhi (1982).) Fisher asked him: “You mean that the Jews should have committed collective suicide?” Gandhi responded: “Yes, that would have been heroism.” In1947 he confessed to Fischer that  “Judaism is obstinate and unenlightening. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/gandhi-on-jews-part-2-nazis-and-cowardice/
So, what do we answer Gandhi, on self-denial and on Judaism?]
(Rab in Yer. id., at the close)
Rebbi Ḥizqiah, Rebbi Cohen in the name of Rav: Every person will have to justify himself for everything his eye saw and which he did not eat2
.. Rebbi Eleazar took note of this statement and saved coins with which he ate every kind of new produce once a year.
Rabbi Elazar HaKappar, the esteemed one, says: What is the meaning when the verse states with regard to a nazirite: “And make atonement for him, for he sinned by the soul” (Numbers 6:11)? And with which soul did this person sin by becoming a nazirite? Rather, in afflicting himself by abstaining from wine, he is considered to have sinned with his own soul, and he must bring a sin-offering for the naziriteship itself, for causing his body to suffer. And an a fortiori inference can be learned from this: Just as this person, in afflicting himself by abstaining only from wine, is nevertheless called a sinner, in the case of one who afflicts himself by abstaining from everything, through fasting or other acts of mortification, all the more so is he described as a sinner.( Talmud Nazir 19a)
The historic Jew( as opposed to the contemporary Jew) saw life as defined by “ halakhah”—from_”holekh- to go -the path, the path of life. We often use the word” din” for a law, but that is to fall into a Christian dichotomy, which saw itself as” religion of love” as opposed to our “ religion of law.” We, too, often fell into this trap by ourselves, to the point, that we, in some sense, confused the idea of an iron-clad -law as the be-all and end-all.
 Rather, the correct operative term , as halakhah- the path to follow. We want to be in the path, not off the path,( lost in the bushes & thorns). Best phrase”” Hatznea lechet”. Walk modestly in the presence of God.
Basis for our morning benedictions ( p 10 in Sim Shalom)
Everything is an occasion for recognizing Kodesh in the chol-
When one awakens, he recites:
My God, the soul You have placed within me is pure.
. . .One day You will take it from me and restore it within me in the time to come.
As long as the soul is within me, I thank You,
O Lord my God and God of my ancestors, Master of all worlds, Lord of all souls.
Blessed are You, O Lord, who restores souls to lifeless bodies.
Upon hearing the sound of the rooster, one should recite: Blessed…Who gave the heart [sekhvi] understanding to distinguish between day and night.
Upon opening his eyes, one should recite: Blessed…Who gives sight to the blind.
Upon sitting up straight, one should recite: Blessed…Who sets captives free.
Upon dressing, one should recite: Blessed…Who clothes the naked, as they would sleep unclothed.
Upon standing up straight, one should recite: Blessed…Who raises those bowed down.
Upon descending from one’s bed to the ground, one should recite: Blessed…Who spreads the earth above the waters, in thanksgiving for the creation of solid ground upon which to walk.
Upon walking, one should recite: Blessed…Who makes firm the steps of man.
Upon putting on his shoes, one should recite: Blessed…Who has provided me with all I need, as shoes are a basic necessity.
Upon putting on his belt, one should recite: Blessed…Who girds Israel with strength.
Upon spreading a shawl upon his head, one should recite: Blessed…Who crowns Israel with glory.

Upon washing his face, one recites: Blessed…Who removes the bands of sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids.
Even going to the rest room!
Upon exiting, one says:
Blessed…Who formed man in wisdom,
and created in him many orifices and cavities.
It is revealed and known before the throne of Your glory
that were one of them to be ruptured or blocked, it would be impossible to survive and stand before You
Every aspect of daily life could be appreciated
Blessings over various foods-
Hamotzi, Gefen, Shehhakol, Pri hatetz, haadamah, Mezonot-bread, wine, general drinks, fruit, vegetables,general cooked foods.
Full list in Sim Shalom p 708

On seeing wonders in nature, including lightning, shooting stars, vast deserts, mountains and a sunrise:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, Source of


On seeing the ocean:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who has made

the great sea.

On seeing a rainbow:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who

remembers, is faithful to, and fulfills Your

covenant with all that You created.

On hearing thunder, or seeing a storm:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe whose power

and might fill the whole world.

On smelling fragrant spices:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe, who creates

various spices.

On smelling the fragrance of herbs or plants:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who creates

fragrant plants.

On smelling fragrant fruit:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who gives a

pleasant fragrance to fruits.

On seeing trees blossoming for the first time in a



Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe whose works

are lacking nothing, and who has created

beautiful creatures and beautiful trees for

the children of Adam.

On seeing an ugly creature:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who has

fashioned different creatures.


I gave this blessing at an invocation where hockey legend, Gordie Howe, was honored.

On seeing trees or creatures of striking beauty:

Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe in whose world

exists such beauty.

On seeing a person distinguished in Torah studies:


Blessed are You, Adonai our God,

Sovereign of the universe who has shared

wisdom with those who show awe.

(©2017  Teach.org                                                                                
Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago’s Online Resource Center)
For head of state: who has given his glory to flesh and blood( my teacher, Prof Seymour Siegel, to Pres Nixon)
Continue theme of Kadosh
Kedushah- in public( Minyan, edah)  in the Amidah-
Also” Kaddish”- not for mourning, but for end of unit of prayer( Hatzi, Shalem) or study ( D rabannan,
) extended to time of morning-
Both tied to “ kidsush hashem”- sanctification of the divine name in public- Hence, minyan of ten, is necessary to create a public.

Kiddush over wine on Shabbat, festivals- Our declaration acts to make the meal a sacred event( plus the good food!). God is” mekadesh haShabbat” and we are the partners in kiddush.

Marriage- “kiddushin” dedication- Harey at mekudeshet- leads to “ nisuin”-elevation, the sealing of the marriage. Catholic-marriage is also a sacrament- but-it is in conflict with the marriage to the church-priest or nun-either or.
 (Protestants- removed the conflict.)

PS The Rabbi, as exemplar of halakhah, was expected to get married and have children( or at least give it a try).

 The one case recorded in Rabbinic sources of a celibate Rabbi himself condemned celibacy:whoever does not engage in reproduction is as one who sheds blood…( Ben Azzai ,t. Ybamot 8:7)

On sexuality- the Shulkhan Arukh-Rama- and Rambam endorses an
y act -kedarcha u shelo kedarcha- as long as both partners are in agreement.( Even Haezer 25:2)
Therefore, every aspect of life is a potential for Kedushah- what we eat, how we talk, how we engage in business, how we work, and how we rest form working. Every aspect of every day was involved in creating holiness in this life.
Wait- what about getting us in to Heaven? Isn’t that what religions are about?
The Bible was amazingly silent about the afterlife. Surely, the people of Israel believed something about it, had stories and legends, yet those seem to have been erased from the record. The Cohen, the priest, in every other ancient religion,  cared for the dead, who mummified the Pharaoh’s and the royalty. The Cohen, the priest, in Judaism, was forbidden to touch the dead, and till today, a Cohen, descendant of the priests, does not set foot at the graveside. Why so? To force us to focus on this life.

Even when, in  the time of the Second Temple, the concept of a resurrection form death became a Jewish principal, it was not a denial of this life, but intended as a affirmation of this life. Just so, the Messianic era, was seen, not as the elimination of normal existence, but the restoration of a pure and trouble free of the Jewish people in its land.  

The purpose of kedushah- as expressed by British poet ,William Blake, 2 centuries ago:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Blake's illustration of the Creator