At the very center of the ark, the Divine Sanctuary on earth, the Torah imagines fierce and menacing guards called kruvim. Placed by the Holy One at the entrance of the Garden of Eden. They are sentries with a fiery sword who prevent Adam and Eve from making their way back after they were ejected.
That’s the last we hear of the kruvim until this week, when they reappear in Parshat Teruma’s descriptions for the ark which the Israelites are to use to carry the Tablets of the Covenant. The Israelites are told: “Make two cherubim of gold... they shall have their wings spread out and they shall confront each other. It is from there that I will meet with you... from between the two kruvim that are on top of the Ark.”
In other words, where does the Holy One dwell? Between two beings, each one very different from the other, who are talking to each other face-to-face.
Real conversation, face-to-face conversation is a real and precious thing. It's also somewhat hard to achieve, and it's not just because of screens, like this one that you are reading this from.
Its hard because it requires being fully present to someone else, someone who is inevitably, very different from you. It requires presence, but absence as well - absence of that nagging sense that there is somewhere else to be, something else to do. It requires the absence of the perception that what is coming next is somehow better that what is here now.
I’m in Israel now, coming towards the end of my time as a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. It has been a wonderful residency - I’ve spent most of my time learning from incredible teachers, including Micha Goodman, Melila Hellner-Eshed and my old thesis advisor, Gordon Tucker (and I even got to squeeze in an excellent hike at Ein Gedi!).
For all of the blessings of this fellowship though, the richest has been the opportunity to sit and talk face-to-face with colleagues - friends who face some of the same blessings and challenges that I do as a community rabbi. I am so grateful to have rabbinic friends in Montreal, Minneapolis, Baltimore and to have a chance to share what we are doing in Beacon and to learn from what they are doing to strengthen their communities and make them clear channels for the flow of Divine energy into the world.
While it is wonderful to be here, there is no place like home, and I’m looking forward to being back with our community this coming Shabbat. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught that Shabbat is a break from the “profanity of clattering commerce... the screech of dissonant days... the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling our own lives.” It is a day to be a human being, not a human do-ing.
I’m so glad to be here in Jerusalem, and I’m very much looking forward to coming back to the Hudson Valley - even if it is now a frozen tundra -- and once again talking face-to-face with some of my favorite human beings this Shabbat. See you soon!