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Rededicating our inner temple

Rabbi Shefa Gold ()

Rabbi Shefa Gold ()

JEMEZ SPRINGS, New Mexico, Dec. 3 (JTA) — Chanukah celebrates the rededication of the ancient Holy Temple where our ancestors worshipped. Each year we recall the “great miracle that happened there.” Although the Temple no longer stands in Jerusalem, we can still take part in a ritual of rededication of the holy.
In our time, God-worship has developed beyond the animal sacrifice that took place in the Temple: Prayer and service are what we offer God. The altar of stone that was swept away finds its true place at the center of the temple of our soul, where the infinite meets the finite, where the spark of God bursts into flame within us.
Making our lives into a dwelling place for divine presence, a Mishkan — the portable sanctuary that we carry through our wilderness journeys — takes work and attention to detail, a commitment to spiritual practice.
The Book of Exodus contains detailed instructions for building the Mishkan. The Mishkan’s very purpose is to provide a space within where we can receive the mystery of presence. God says to us (Exodus 25:8): “Make for me a holy place so that I can dwell among you.” Inside, among the nation of Israel, and inside… our own hearts. God’s message to us is: Yes, it is possible to stay connected with Me at all times, in all places, even as you engage in the life of the world.
But as the story of Chanukah reminds us, even the holiest place can become desecrated.
It is simple, if heartbreaking, to recognize the desecration of the physical Temple. It is a much subtler process to probe the desecration of the inner Temple.
We examine the Temple within by asking the very questions that confronted Judah Maccabee upon retaking the Temple: What needs repair? What requires renewal? How shall we kindle the eternal flame? Chanukah offers us an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the holy, to our connection to God.
As the days grow short and the night darkness long, we are invited to enter into the darkness of our own hearts. There, buried beneath the rubble of our disappointments, we find the miraculous spark of our divinity, the awesome knowledge that we are each created in the image of God. This is the spark with which we kindle our menorah.
If we heal the personal desecrations we each have suffered and rededicate our lives to holiness, the miracle of Chanukah happens inside us.
Each night of Chanukah, we light another candle. Each night the light grows brighter, shining its radiance into our own hidden places.
It is truly miraculous that the single spark of hope that we excavate from the darkest part of our hearts can ignite the radiant fires of passion which illuminate our way forward, even on the darkest night.
(Rabbi Shefa Gold is author of “Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land.”)

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