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Are we Dwellers or Visitors

Thursday, 16 August, 2012 - 4:07 pm

This Shabbat we welcome the month of Elul, the time of preparation for the upcoming year. Throughout the month we recite Psalm 27 twice daily. In that psalm King David declares, “One thing I ask of the L-rd, that I seek - that I may dwell in the house of the L-rd all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of the L-rd and to visit His Temple.” The obvious question is, if David asks to dwell in the house of Hashem then why does he also want to visit? The answer is that there are two ways of relating to our being with Hashem. Once is termed dwelling – indicating a sense of permanence and familiarity, the second is termed visiting indicating a sense of impermanence and novelty. So King David is requesting that his dwelling with Hashem should maintain a sense of novelty and specialness; that it never be taken for granted. So too, we recite this psalm in the hope that our enthusiasm for serving Hashem always retain the novelty of a visit rather than the familiarity of a dwelling.

My friend Chaim shared a story that brings out this point. He was visiting Israel a few years ago and made a habit of praying with the sunrise Minyan at the Kotel each day. He ended up praying next an elderly Sefardic gentleman and every day they exchanged greetings and a story or inspirational thought. On the last day of his visit, Chaim told his friend that he was leaving and the old man said to him, “how could you leave this place? It is so special.” Chaim replied by sharing the above thought about visiting and dwelling. He thought the old man would smile and say goodbye like on the other days. Instead he became misty-eyed and serious and he told Chaim that he was going to share something that he never told anyone before. “I have been praying at the Kotel every single day since it was liberated in 1967. When I came that first day it was packed with soldiers and people from all over. The emotions were very strong. I wondered how I could retain the special feeling of novelty that I experienced that first day. It was then that I resolved to never touch or kiss the wall. In this way there would always be something for which I yearn but do not satisfy, thereby ensuring that I will not take these visits for granted.”

As we approach Rosh Hashanah and we think about how to enhance our Jewish experience, let us bear in mind that the excitement in doing a mitzvah or studying Torah is also very important. In short, we must be dwellers, but act like visitors.

Mazel Tov to Rabbi David and Mindy Polsky on the birth of their daughter, Tovah Rachel.

Mazel Tov to David and Dinah Voskovsky on the birth of their daughter, Henya Shayna.

Heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Grace Walther and her family on the passing of her beloved husband, Mr. Greg Walther.

Hope to see you on Sunday morning at Project Talmud’s closing session, Abraham’s Genes.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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