A Talmud Tidbit in celebration of Daf Yomi
In Berakhot (6a) we hear from the sages who talk about God’s presence in the synagogue and What you’ll find in God’s tefillin. The idea of God in the synagogue and God’s tefillin gets me on a number of levels.
First, it’s inspiring to imagine God attending my daily tefillah at shul. I’m imagining God arriving when I do and unlocking the aron kodesh with me together. God is standing with us there as we chant the service together – not just standing before us – encouraging us to continue and stick with it every day. I can also empathize with God’s disappointment when there is no minyan. I feel the same way, not only for Him (or me) but for the people who came and were unable to say the Borchu, the Kedusha, the Kaddish. But it’s still encouraging to not be alone and to not turn my back on the synagogue because that’s where people congregate to worship and commune. (Don’t want to risk running into Eliyahu and his terrible swift sword).
Second, maybe even more viscerally, I feel that that the “divine assembly” refers also to our ability to ascend to the heavens through our tefillah with a minyan. It’s as if the synagogue becomes a portal to a divine dimension (OK, a stargate, if you must), and we join the edah above by communing with the edah below, We can do the same even if there is no minyan, but it’s a lot easier when there is one. And it’s a wonderful feeling.
Third, there’s the idea of God wearing tefillin. It means that it’s not just a commandment for us to wear tefillin because God told us to perform this strange ritual. It’s communion with God because God wears tefillin as well. We and God are engaged in the same activity. This brings home the point I raised before that ‘Talmuding’ is all about learning how to position ourselves at the intersection of ‘beyn adam lamaqom‘ & ‘beyn adam lehavero’ to better commune with Man & God
One final (unrelated) point. I think the real message of ‘chastisements of love’ from yesterday’s daf yomi (Berakhot 5b) is in the story of R’ Hanina & R. Yohanan, when R. Hanina reaches out to help R’ Yohanan in his illness. A number of people with whom I learned this – and on the Daily Dose of Daf Yomi Facebook page – expressed their frustration at the idea that God would bring suffering to people out of love. Certainly, we can’t tell someone who is suffering that god is doing it out of love (“Let God love someone else for a change.”) Our role as fellow human beings is not to judge someone on why they are suffering. It’s to reach out and help them. God’s got His/Her reasons, and we can’t see the picture. We are the tools of God’s love.
Kind of amazing how we ended up here when all we wanted to know at the start was when to say Shema at night.
Talmud on, folks.