Day 17: Approaching the Holy
Tonight begins the 17th Day of the Omer (May 6-7, 2008).
May that part of me that is broken in Tiferet in Tiferet be healed on this day.
The God of the Hebrew Bible is associated with Tiferet. That God, as reported in the Torah, is concerned with ritual purity. Coming close to the holiest of places requires purity. Animals that are brought forward for sacrifice must be without blemish.
This week's Torah portion, emor deals with the rules established to maintain the purity of the priest class. In a world where purity/closeness to God preclude certain physical states, such as a menstruating women or a man having had a seminal emission, death represents the antithesis of God. Priests are instructed to keep at a distance from death, only being allowed to tend to the death of a close family member or to a corpse that has been abandoned.
Closeness to God brings its own danger. The holy of holies, a spot where God's world and the human world touch, was accessible only to the high priest and only on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement which comes just once a year.
In December, 2006, I visited the Temple Mount, the area near where the holy of holies was supposed to have been. Indeed the Dome of the Rock Shrine resides on that very spot. That spot is also where the binding of Isaac is supposed to have taken place and where Mohammed is supposed to have risen to heaven.
I remember going inside the Dome of the Rock in 1974 and putting my hand through a curtain and then touching the bedrock which contained the footprint that Mohammed left on his way out of this world.
In 2006 I had mixed feelings about going up to the Temple Mount at all, and absolutely didn't want to go inside the Dome of the Rock. It turns out that current Temple Mount policy allows only Muslims are allowed inside the Dome of the Rock.
Though I don't believe that holiness is created only within the physical and proximal realms, I also don't dismiss these kinds of holiness as I did in the past. It was after traveling to Mt. Sinai in 1977 and to the southwestern deserts of the USA in 1979 that I began to feel a connection to holy places that are rooted in geographic places.
For me, these kinds of holy places invite a heightened awareness of what is greater than us. That awareness can lead to humility. I think humility is the ultimate purpose of physical holiness. [That's just one of many reasons why I am completely opposed to ideas of establishing a third Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount. Even if it didn't cause massive violence, which it likely would, it would still be a great act of chutzpah and NOT humility, making it counter to a religious endeavor.]
On this day of Tiferet in Tiferet, I pray that I have the will, strength, and ability to approach holiness with reverence and humility.