As we move into the month of Ellul with the Yamim Noraim approaching, we add layers to the weekly services. The Shofar is blown, and we recite Psalm 27 in the daily services. We anticipate a return to God. The psalm contains the simplest and most plaintive of words.
אַחַת, שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת-יְהוָה - אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ: שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-יְהוָה, כָּל-יְמֵי חַי
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life
The Parashah begins with the word Re eh, translated as “see”. (Ibn Ezra pointed out that the word is set in the singular tense; it was directed to us as individuals). It begins with the warnings of blessings and curses. This is the second time we will hear these words. We heard them in Parasha Bechukutai and they will be repeated in full force in Parasha Ki Tavo.
There are some 41 mitzvot encompassing tithing, the setting up of a temple, avoiding false prophets, charity, the pilgrim festivals and the laws of kashrut. Curiously, although the indicators of what defines kosher land animals and fishes is spelt out (chewing the cud, split hooves, scales and fins), the only indicators for birds are 24 classes of birds to be avoided; not all of whom are obviously identifiable. Technically, geese and turkey could be suspect but, common sense took the view that halachah could be based on established tradition.
The Book of Joshua goes on to describe the blessings and curses being pronounced on Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim and the establishment of the sanctuary at Shiloh. What we do not hear is where God wishes the temple to be established. As we know, the eventual site in Jerusalem would be destroyed twice so where can we find the house of the Lord?
We enjoyed the blessings in our wanderings and certainly endured the curses. We hung on to the mitzvoth and measured the years by the festivals. We set up synagogues, houses of meeting, learning and prayer. Most importantly we made our homes into sanctuaries.
Rabbi Collick commented that when he looked down from the Bimah and saw children (especially those who were disabled), happy and engaged in the services, he felt that God was present. Perhaps it is in our own homes and communities where each of us
may live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life