Let My People Know

"The patriarchs and the prophets did not have to enter a sanctuary or a Holy Temple in order to converse with God"


When we say that the Shechinah departs, the meaning is that the specific manifestation has terminated, and everything returns to the normal state of affairs. 

Altogether, then, if the Shechinah is said to emanate, the meaning is that there is a perceptible revelation of the Divine unity.

That is to say, there is an awareness of the universal harmony and God's omnipresence. 

The Holy Temple in Jerusalem was that spot where this was most pronounced. 

Since its destruction, God can no longer be said to be located at anyone geographical point. 

Nor is it entirely correct to say that He is everywhere geographically. 

He has simply transferred His presence from geography altogether.

He has made himself accessible, so to speak, within the confines of the Halachah. 

(The question of the proper use of the Halachah is something else–it is not the responsibility of the Halachah.) 

Torah and Halachah thus serve to designate what God wants of men and make it possible to get as close to Him as one can in this world.

The trouble arises when a person begins to reflect on the profound gap between the greatness of God and his own smallness. 

Recognizing his own incapacity to serve as a dwelling place for the Divine, he feels sure that he can never be like the patriarchs and the prophets, who did not have to enter a sanctuary or a Holy Temple in order to converse with God. 

Moreover, it becomes evident that in order to be any sort of vehicle, or Chariot, of the Shechinah, one needs to have a minimal level of intelligence and a certain knowledge of one's own Divine Soul. 

In the same way that a trained musician can read a musical score and hear the music, or a mathematician can enjoy the structure and harmony of a formula, so too is the concept of Divine Unity a source of inspiration and joy to those able to grasp it. 

It is a certain natural gift that has to be nurtured and developed. 

The important thing is that it is a potential that exists in every man, even though, as with most gifts, there are those who are more talented and those who are less so.

Those gifted ones, whom we call the great souls, have this extraordinary sensitivity for all that is holy.

Others, and they may be very clever, learned, and even wise, will have much more difficulty in perceiving the Divine essence in anything, even in themselves. 

That capacity has to be fostered and trained; it cannot be coerced into being.

Nevertheless, even with the right combination of intelligence and soul, many persons tend to stop at some point in their lives and tell themselves that they cannot hope to ever make direct contact with the Divine. 

They feel that they cannot serve as a sanctuary; they have to enter some other, larger temple of God. 

This may be felt in spite of uplifting experiences (that come with greater or lesser frequency, such as in prayer or fasting). 

For many people do not know how to keep their entire lives centered around one thing. 

As the Chasidim of Kotzk used to say, "It is a matter of being absolutely straight," or all of one piece. 

In Chabad Chasidism, it used to be called getting to the point of the self where one was no longer subject to change–for one of the tests of truth is that it does not vary according to circumstances.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From The Long Shorter Way by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz