Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “The sanctity exists only when the object is used.”

 Every holy vessel presents an opportunity to establish a holy connection, but this does not happen automatically.

The sanctity exists only when the object is used.

The sanctity becomes meaningful only in connection with a member of the Jewish people; if that factor is missing, while the object must still be treated with respect, it has no sanctity.

There is a story that illustrates this point:

A young rabbi was once imprisoned and tortured by the Russians.

When, after a while, he was unexpectedly released, it was discovered that one of the reasons given for his release was that he was insane.

The authorities had seen him putting on tefillin, and when they asked him what this was, he answered that it was a communication device through which he spoke with God.

After examining the tefillin inside and out and not finding any batteries or antennas, and particularly after seeing him put this device on his head and begin to talk, they came to the conclusion that he was definitely insane.

Obviously, the tefillin themselves are not some kind of magical communication device.

But the truth is that, like every sacred instrument, tefillin are instruments for connecting with God, but they only receive their inner essence when combined with one’s performance of the mitzvot associated with them.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz