Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Monday, 28 June 2010

Transience and Permanence

"How goodly are your tents o' Yaakov, your dwelling places o' Israel."

Chazal tell us that we are to prefer the curses of those who love us over the blessings of those who hate us, specifically Bilaam.  Despite how wonderful the various blessings he pronounces sound, Chazal were able to find hidden catches.  For example, being compared to a cedar tree sounds great until you recognize that when the wind finally blows it over there's no standing it back up.  Bilaam was therefore find with Israel having a time of glory as long as ultimately it fell in disgrace never to rise again.
In this particular blessing there are many deeper meanings but most of the mephorshim I looked at over Shabbos seemed to focus on the difference between ohel (tent) and mishkan (dwelling place).
It seems to me that in addition to the other interpretations, we can look at ohel and mishkan as representing life in both this world and the next.  Bilaam may initially be recognizing that Jews have a dual life, as it were and that in both our closeness to God and our appreciation of Torah help bring us closer to the Divine ideal.  The word mishkan can apply to the Next World since the place where God dwelt amongst our ancestors in the desert was so called.  Ohel can apply to this word since the Torah tells us "Zos haTorah: Adam ki yamus b'ohel" - This is the Torah - a man who dies in a tent.  There is no mitzvos observance in the next world and there is no death there either, this ohel can only refer to our lives here in the physical world.
So what's the catch?  There are three ways of valuing both worlds.  There are those who are foolish enough to deny the value and/or existence of the Next World.  For them this limited physical existence is all there is, thus a life of materialistic pleasure is all they can value.  For others, the Next World is primary and of such importance that this world seems to disappear next to it.  While folks like that may exist on an extremely high level of piety, are they making the most of creation?  I would suggest that the person doing that is the one who remembers the statement in Avos that a moment done right in this world outweighs the entire Next World while a moment there outweighs all of life here.  There is value in both and both need to be used to their maximum potential.
But there's a trap in that because ultimately, being physical creatures, we identify with the physical.  Any entry into what this world offers us carries a seductive undertone.  A desire for the best lulav eventually turns into a desire for the biggest house.  Preparations for a child's bar mitzvah may start with the hope of being extremely spiritually meaningful but often end with arguments on what the ice scupulture will represent and how much to spend on the sweet table.  This world must be approached by caution and only through the lens of Torah but even then we can so easily be led astray.
Perhaps this was Bilaam's hope by mentioning the ohel first.  He may have been hoping that we would engage in that part and forget that on the day of physical death our souls move on to the mishkan.  Without proper preparation we spend an eternity mourning our lost opportunities here.

1 comment:

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

Nice blog!

If you are interested in the Mishkan, check out my blog: http://thedeserttabernacle.blogspot.com/

I tried to gather as much information as possible on the subject there.