This Weeks Haftorah
Rabbi Levi Langer

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"So has Hashem spoken: The heavens are My throne, and the earth is My footstool--what home could you possibly build for Me, and what would be My resting-place?" (Isaiah 63:1)

When Solomon erected the Temple to serve as the House of Hashem, he was fully cognizant of the fact that in truth no edifice, impressive as it might be, could truly house the Divine Presence. At the Temple's inauguration Solomon spoke of this. "For the heavens and the highest celestial spheres cannot encompass you--and certainly not this House which I have built!" (I Kings 8:29)

The purpose of the Temple is not to serve as a home for Hashem, for He needs no home. Rather, its function is to serve as a locus, as a certain point toward which we may direct our service. Each day we pray facing the direction of the Temple site. And during the Temple era, all of the men, women and children of Israel would gather together in Jerusalem to the courtyard of the Temple, there to commune with the Divine.

The Temple is there for us, not for Hashem. It is from the Temple that we draw our spiritual energy, which we are to carry with us back to our homes and our daily lives.

And in Solomon's day, all the people understood this.

But by the time of Isaiah, centuries later, this idea had been lost. The people saw the Temple as the home of Hashem, an edifice which could contain Him within its confines. This, writes Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, is the message of our verse. The heavens are My throne and the earth My footstool! Do you imagine that you can banish Me into a house?

We have no Temple today. In its stead we pray in our houses of worship. But if we delude ourselves into thinking that we can "box in" the Divine service into those houses, and once outside them we can live entirely as we please, then we have failed to learn the lesson of our haftorah.

The synagogue is where we take in a measure of spiritual uplift, which must saturate the entirety of our lives.

Copyright (c) 1997 by Rabbi Levi Langer

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