What we know, what we don't know
Turning potential into reality (Radical Torah repost)

This week's portion: the place


It is written
one who does not rebuild
the Temple in his lifetime

is as though
he had helped
to destroy it.

Can it be
that the sages
pillars of learning

who fail to rebuild
are all

Rather: one who studies Torah
rebuilds the Holy of Holies
piece by piece

each soul has a spark
to contribute
to that holy fire

one who does not know
which teachings are hers
to learn and give over

that one sins
but if she repents
if she grows in wisdom

she will see miracles
behind every corner
this is the true meaning of

"when in doubt
go up to the place
which Adonai has chosen"

when we learn
we ascend
and holiness is restored

In this week's Torah portion, Shoftim, we read "If a case is too baffling for you to decide, be it a controversy over homicide, civil law, or assault — matters of dispute in your courts — you shall promptly repair [literally: ascend] to the place that the Lord your God will have chosen, and appear before the levitical priests, or the magistrate in charge at the time, and present your problem. When they have announced to you the verdict in the case, you shall carry out the verdict that is announced to you from that place that the Lord chose..."

I recently translated a text from the Hasidic rebbe known as the Bnai Yissaschar which culminates in this verse. He rereads the verse in a gorgeously creative way. When I sat down to work on this week's poem, his teaching was reverberating in my mind, so I decided to try to present his teaching as a poem. It's possible that this works better as a prose teching than as a poem; I'll be curious to know what y'all think (especially if any of y'all happen to know the Bnai Yissaschar text which I'm rendering here!)

I love the idea that when we learn Torah, we are rebuilding the Temple in a cosmic sense, contributing to the restoration of the world's wholeness and the increase of the world's holiness. What about this idea, or this week's Torah poem, speaks to you?