We come again to the parshos of Tazriah and Metzorah with their descriptions of white blemishes of various shapes and sizes on people, clothes and houses. We listen respectfully to the baal koreh who tries valiantly to remember whether the word is supposed to be hu or hi (easier for Chassidim) and return home to eat our cholent usually none the wiser. Is there no way we can be inspired by these parshos? Or is this our annual kaporoh for enjoying our Pesach matzos smothered with eingemachts too much?
In the Shacharis Kedusha of Shabbos and Yom Tov, we implore Hashem to rule over us. This is a very strange request. Haven’t we all already accepted Hashem as our King? When we say the Shema we affirm that Hashem is our King. He is, was and always will be our King, as we repeat many times especially on Rosh Hashono when we crown Him as we hear the resounding tekios? What do we mean when we say and often sing ‘Vesimloch oleinu ki mechakim anachnu loch – Rule over us because we are waiting for You’?
Three times a day we say the two paragraphs of Oleinu. The first paragraph emphasizes how much we must thank Hashem that He has chosen us to be His People, mentioning also that He rules over Heaven and Earth. We can never thank Hashem enough for our beautiful inheritance. But why do we say the second paragraph, that the all idol worshippers should acknowledge Him, so often? Of course we want Moshiach to come. But why do we repeat this request every time we say Oleinu?
The Rambam writes that it is a mitzvas asei to build a house for Hashem, ready for us to visit three times a year and bring korbonos in it. If possible it should be overlaid with gold. (Hilchos Beis Habechira 1:1 and 11) Later he writes that it is a mitzvas asei for the Beis Hamikdash to be guarded even though there is no fear of enemies. (ibid 8:1) The Rambam explains that guarding the Beis Hamikdash is a way of showing honour to Hashem: “One cannot compare a palace with guards to a palace without guards.”
All this is the minimum honour we can give to Hashem our King. Any powerful king has a resplendent palace which is a symbol of his power. His subjects will visit him regularly to pay homage to him and do there whatever he commands them to do. How much more so should we honour Hashem who is the King of Heaven and Earth.
This is indeed how things were in the time of the Beis Hamikdash, especially the first one. Shlomo Hamelech built a beautiful Beis Hamikdash in Hashem’s honour. Kohanim, Hashem’s hand-picked representatives, served there doing the prescribed Avoda. Three times a year all the People left their farms across Eretz Yisroel to come and pay homage to Hashem, bringing with them a sample of the blessings Hashem had granted them during the year.
During Pesach, my wife and I visited our family who live in various communities in England and we saw new shuls, new mikvaos and many Yidden davening, learning and living like loyal Jews. We were impressed. There are other beautiful communities in America, Australia, South Africa and many other places over the world. We are apt to be happy and proud of all these different communities in the “four corners of the world.”
However we may be forgetting our true lowly position or more accurately the terrible chillul Hashem in today’s situation. We have become used to Jews living mefuzar umeforad bein ho’amim – scattered among the nations. This is, for us, normal. But Hashem is King of the Heaven and Earth and His People should be living in honour in the special land which He gave us. Anything else is a chillul Hashem (Sotah 49a). Where is Hashem’s Beis Hamikdash, the symbol of His Kingship? In ruins. As the prophets bemoaned, “Where is His strength, where is His might?” Instead of doing His Avoda we have to suffice with learning what used to be done. As the malachim ask, “Where is the place of His glory?”
This is a shocking, intolerable chillul Hashem. We believe that Hashem is all-powerful but the facts on the ground seem to indicate otherwise. Modern idol-worshippers abound. Atheists invade our schools and tell us how to educate our children. We say that we are in golus but we forget about the golus of the Shechina. Our lives continue as though all is well. Where are the signs of our shock, our disgust and our misery at this spiritual catastrophe?
Fortunately, however, the siddur, reminds us not to be satisfied. We speak of Hashem’s glory and might in the first half of Oleinu. But then, in response to our realization that the world which we see hardly reflects Hashem’s glory, we immediately express our hope that this horrible contradiction will soon be rectified; that all these ancient and modern idol-worshippers, will soon “bend their knees to Hashem” in an acknowledgement of their error. In Kedusha after proclaiming Hashem’s great Holiness we immediately plead, “Mimkomecho Malkeinu sofia, eineinu sir’eno malchusecho.” Of course we believe that You are the King of Heaven and Earth, but ’eineinu sireno malchusecho’ – we want to see Your Kingship and we want the whole world to see Your Glory. As we say in Yom Tov Musaf, “Galei kevod malchusecho – Reveal the honour of your Kingdom in the eyes of all humanity, bring in our scattered ones and enable us to perform Your service. This is not because we are tired of golus but because we want Your Name to be glorified and sanctified – Yisgadal veyiskadash Shemei Rabbo. Our Oleinu should not be said as we take off our talis or as we walk out of shul but in a way which shows our heartfelt desire to see imminently “the glory of Your strength.” Our mimkomecho should be said or sang with great passion as we implore Hashem to reveal His greatness and sanctity.
As we listen to the details of Tazriah and Metzora we should ponder how Hashem’s glory once revealed itself through special signs which reminded each individual that he has sinned, as an encouragement to better behavior, Sadly, as the Seforno (13:47) says, now we do not merit such an open display of Hashem’s love for us. Instead of wishing that the krias HaTorah would end already, we can silently yearn for a return to such wonderful times, when Hashem’s glory will be revealed to all and He will be publicly and universally acknowledged as the King of Heaven and Earth.