Dvar Torah for Parshat Pikudei


Based on Likutey Halakhot, Beit HaKnesset 4

Hot-blooded, cold-blooded, bloodied. Passion and cruelty, in their quest for victory, easily lead to strife and contention. How does one pacify blood? In Likutey MoHaran I, Lesson #75, Rebbe Nachman writes that the drive for conquest and discord comes from blood unused in the service of Hashem (God), specifically from words of Torah and prayer that are left unspoken. Reb Noson relates this teaching to the beit haknesset (synagogue).* What follows is a loose rendition of Hilkhot Beit HaKnesset 4:2-4, 7.

Torah and prayer are 'grownÓ in the beit haknesset through the holy words of prayer and kriat haTorah (Torah reading) that are spoken there. These words, spoken earnestly and sincerely, increase our yearning to be connected to God, which, in turn, dissipates our desire for the unspiritual. Then all the fractious nitzotzot (sparks [of holiness]) in one's blood are elevated and peace is made.

For what is holiness, but the dissipation of earthiness, the unspiritual? A space dedicated to re-uniting nitzotzot and building from them new spiritual worlds becomes sanctified as its missions succeeds. Speaking to God in prayer, speaking God's word, Torah, opens a channel that allows Godliness to flow into our world. This makes reverence for the synagogue an absolute necessity.

Holiness is built on reverence, because reverence itself weakens the unspiritual. For earthiness and physicality, the breeding grounds of the profane and the impure, are dissipated by being overwhelmed by the preponderance of holy words spoken, but only if they are founded on reverence.

Even though speaking words of prayer and Torah sanctifies the space in which they are spoken, the sanctity they produce is quite fragile. This is why sichah b'teilah (unnecessary secular conversation) has no place in the synagogue. Since words of Torah study and prayer increase the longing for God and build peace, sichah b'teilah, their antithesis, is extremely damaging. It causes shvirat hakeilim (shattering of the vessels), undoing all the building of the holy words, and bringing the world back to a state of tohu (confusion).

Whence the appellation beit haknesset (literally, place of gathering)? It comes from the assembling of the nitzotzot gathered together to make peace. This is the explanation of the verse, "God is the Builder of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem); He yikhaneis (gathers) the scattered Jews" (Psalms 147:2). Jerusalem, site of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple), represents every beit haknesset because she is the source of their holiness. The name Yerushalayim itself is formed by the words yirah (reverence, fear) and shalom. So, when Hashem yiKhaNeiS the scattered Jews, scattered nitzotzot, into the beit haKNeSset, He is inviting us to assemble in peace and to draw upon ourselves at least a semblance of the holiness that was available in the Beit HaMikdash.

Dissension is terrible anywhere, but in particular in a beit haknesset. From the above we can understand why. A synagogue, any synagogue, is a site dedicated to promoting peace among Jews. To engage in controversy in a beit haknesset strikes at its very foundation, prevents it from fulfilling its purpose, and severs it from its link to holiness, the Beit HaMikdash.

On the other hand, a beit haknesset that produces and nurtures peace, will become part of the third Beit HaMikdash that we await, because in virtue of its being a 'peace factoryÓ it is already part of that future Beit HaMikdash (see Megillah 29a, Maharsha s.v. sheh'yikavu b'eretz Yisrael)!

May the Merciful One bless us with peace and may the building of the Beit HaMikdash take place in our lifetime, soon.

agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!

*What is written concerning the beit haknesset applies as well to the beit hamidrash (Torah study hall).