Why would someone spend millions of dollars of his own money only to spend a few minutes in space?
That was the question that floated in my head when I watched a live broadcast of Sir Richard Branson blasting himself into space in his Virgin Galactic spacecraft.
Oops, I’ve just realized something: he spends millions of dollars because he’s so interested in space, and I spend many minutes watching him for the exact same reason!
Let’s admit it: most of us are fascinated by anything space related.
And that’s something that’s so uniquely human.
I don’t believe other species care too much about it. Animals care mainly about their immediate needs: food, shelter, recreation and maybe protecting their counterparts. We, on the other hand, were always curious. From the dawn of time we would gaze to the stars, dreaming to reach those far-away places. It’s in our DNA.
Perhaps this is how G-d created us. He wanted us to never be satisfied with our own limitations, and to always reach further.
Defying gravity and floating in space is mesmerizing for us, because it means we are not bound by the laws of nature that apply down below; we transcend our own existence into something higher.
When you think of it, this idea is very much a part of Judaism.
So much so that G-d had asked the Jewish people to designate a space dedicated to self-transcendence; a space that allows people to let go of their typical self-focus, and experience something higher.
That place was called Beit Hamikdash, the holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Our sages relate the many miracles that took place at the holy Temple, and how the holiest section of it (the Kodesh Hakodashim, Holy of Holies), defied the laws of physics.
It was a place to see and feel G-d’s presence in the world.
No wonder our Siddur is filled with mentions of the Beit Hamikdash. 3 times a day, we speak about it, and we pray for it to be rebuilt. Once a year, on the 9th of Av (this year beginning sunset of July 17th), we fast and mourn its destruction.
We don’t only mourn the destruction of the physical structure. We mourn the loss of a place that reminded us that we don’t have to stay limited in our human existence, and we can be connected to something much greater than ourselves.
And we know that every Mitzvah we do brings us closer to the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash. Because every Mitzvah is an act of reaching higher and becoming better.
May it happen very soon, Amen.