The dimensions of ha-inyan ha-elohi (the divine principle)

Parashat Terumah is wholly focused on building a tent wall surrounding another tent inside it. The text carefully details colors, textures and materials, as well as numbers and angles. In cloth and in metal, there will be gold, silver, royal purple, crimson red and linen white; there will be rectangles and squares, as well as canvases drawn tight over precise frames; and there will be a hidden sacred space between two birdlike human images, the keruvim, facing each other over the ark of the covenant. And there, between the keruvim, over the box inside the inner tent, will manifest Y-H-V-H, the divine principle.

What is the divine principle? Maybe we should think of it as a dark spark, the unfathomable point of energy after the Big Bang from which emerged the universe and all it contains. The force of creation. That force abounds today as it did then: pulsating, living, creating. It is the heart of what we are. There is always imperfection in the love that we know. We can feel that there can be greater more prefect love than ours. The divine principle is the root of that higher love. There is always imperfection in the justice that we seek; in the beauty that we encounter. We can imagine a higher justice and a greater beauty: the divine principle is the root of that higher justice and beauty. The divine principle creates us, animates us and draws us upward; it is the inner force behind our highest aspirations.

Once upon a time, the holy spirit hovered in the darkness over the deep, disembodied and alone. Then, the stirring of the primordial will brought forth light, and a great tent sky, and then life, and then mind. In the human mind, what was hidden became revealed; what was potential became actual. Humanity rose up, from beast to speaking animal to creature of symbols; a mammal of flesh and blood infused with life of transcendent spirit. The Image of God sculpted into living flesh, humanity broke forth from slavery to seek her creator at Sinai: a place that is not a place, at a time beyond the march of time.

Chanted words and melodies sung out-loud; leather straps and ink stained parchment; daily rhythms and the pattern of the year; somehow our lives carve out the dimensions of the divine. Presently bereft of our once-and-future holy tent, we struggle to evoke the presence of God in what we are now. Oppression, alienation and injustice mar the pillars of holy Israel; anxiety and depression threaten to fling us down the rungs, off the ladder that reaches high. But there is still joy in the silver and purple of cloth and metal; the divine spirit still rests in the stone streets and sloping valleys of the holy land. With infinite patience, the divine principle waits to manifest between the keruvim once again.

About the Author
Shaiya Rothberg lives in Jerusalem and teaches Jewish Thought and Kabbalah at the Conservative Yeshiva. He's also a human rights activist focused on resisting the abuses of Israel's discriminatory West Bank regime. Shaiya holds a PhD from Hebrew University in Jewish Thought and a B.A. in Jewish Philosophy and Talmud from Bar-Ilan. He made aliyah in 1988 and served as a soldier and officer in the I.D.F. from 1990-1993 in the military government of the Gaza strip. The opinions in his blog are his own and do not represent any institution.
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