Sign In Forgot Password

The Golden Altar: The Mystery of the Soul- Parshat Tetzvaveh

02/06/2022 09:11:39 AM



Thou Shall Not Collapse G‑d's Wavefunction | Torah and Science

What does a soul look like?  This week's Torah portion might try to answer that.  

Up on Sinai, G-d and Moses are talking blueprints.  For what?  The Tabernacle- the traveling sanctuary that houses the Tablets of the Covenant/AKA the Ten Commandments.  The Tabernacle- or Mishkan as it is called in Hebrew, is nothing less than a holy habitation of G-d's presence.  How can a being who fills time and space inhabit a tent?   Are we talking about a metaphor or a symbol or an actual holy place where G-d's energy is concentrated?  Like most other things in the Torah, the answer shines and hides in the texts of the discussion Torah- the Talmud and Midrash and the centuries of ongoing arguments that continue to this day.

Be that as it may, the Torah is quite clear about one thing.  G-d manifests in the form of a Cloud of Light.  The Cloud forms into a pillar that hovers above the Mishkan and extends down right into the Tent of Meeting.  That's where G-d is revealed in the innermost chamber called the Holy of Holies.

Are you with me?  G-d appears as a Cloud of Light.  And now... as if this isn't mind blowing enough, there is something else perhaps even more incredible. 

Among the furniture of the Tabernacle stands a small, golden altar where super-pure, holy, unique incense is burned.  The exact ingredients and preparation is one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Tabernacle.  Once a year and once only, the High Priest takes some of the incense from the altar in his own personal incense burner- called a censer.  Dressed in pure white linen garments, in a state of absolute purity, holding the censer by its chains, he enters the Holy of Holies on the Holiest Day of the year: on Yom Kippur.  The cloud of incense that he is holding: his personal cloud, mingles with the Cloud of Glory that is hovering over the Ark holding the Ten Commandments. 

For just a brief moment, the two clouds join together.  And in that moment, all of Israel's sins are purified.  The Talmud warns that if, at that moment, the High Priest's mind is not set only on holiness and purity, he will be burned down on the spot and catastrophe will ensue.  It's dangerous to be a High Priest in the service of G-d.   But if he survives the ordeal, he goes out and blesses the nation: the moment when the two clouds merge- the G-d Cloud and the Human Cloud- creates a holy energy that blesses the entire world.

So, what is happening?  The Kabbalah tells us that a human soul looks like this Cloud of Glory- only finite, contained.  In fact, the human soul is made of the essence of the Divine, "in G-d's image and likeness."  So the soul is a cloud, a field of energy, a field that penetrates and transcends the physical form and exists in a completely different way, outside of time and space, from the physical. 

We live in a universe of fields: the gravitational, the electromagnetic, many, many more.  Torah teaches that spirituality is also a field.  Perhaps the daily application of this description of reality is a reminder of the great power of each of us as we emanate and create our own souls from moment to moment.  How do we nurture our souls?  Judaism teaches that the soul is nurtured by Torah (communion with the self) Mitzvot (communion with others) and Tefila- communion with G-d.   

We live in more than one reality, says the Torah.  And perhaps this physical plane isn't the ultimate one.  Being open hearted and open-spirited to information from a deeper reality, one that is felt with the heart, with the soul, is an ongoing task.  The journey of the Tabernacle through the wilderness is a metaphor for our own journey through this world.  We are each charged, invited, commanded, to channel blessing at each stage, each state, each moment.  This is the work that only each of us can do in the Sanctuary of each of our unique souls.  

Shabbat Shalom



Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784