Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Temple Minded

Believe it or not, a great many of Jewish rituals were designed to transmit the rules and habits of the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, to those that never lived to see its glory.  For example, the custom of washing hands before eating bread (or even wet fruit) was established to recall the behavior of the priests in the times of the Temple.  When you preform this act do you think of the Beit HaMikdash?

During an impromptu discussion with a colleague today about the intensified mourning during the 9 days of Av, I asked this same question. He replied, "No, do you think most people when they say, 'Baruch Atah Hashem...' they often think of Hashem?"  

This cynical response - and perhaps accurate - reminds us that to teach davening is to teach sensitivity and awareness to time, space, and people.  In my early Jewish education, I often heard the word "holy" bounced around but never really understood what the word meant.  One good translation is to define it in terms of being separate, apart.  I think it is appropriate to translate the word kedusha as intimacy, a sense of unique closeness that is somewhat private and distinct to specific time, places, and people.  When teaching (or preaching) the importance of tefilla one must be conscious of the many layers of educational, ideological, and historical that are packed into each individual act - and many are actually routed in the service from the Temple.

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