Arks for travelling, Houses for dwelling

Last night, Shlomit and I had a small hannukat habayit learning/party. A ceremony where we learn a few different sources of Torah in a dedication of our home to the future practicing of mitzvot, and Torah learning that will, with God's help, go on there. Why, after more than 10 months of being there are we doing a dedication? Well, for one, we only just learned last week that even a rented apartment warrants such a ceremony, and two, we just moved back in last week, after spending six months at my in-laws because Shlomit had a really rough first and second trimester with all-day sickness. (instead of the kinder gentler morning-sickness) Thank God, she's feeling great, and we're back at home. Very anti-21st century of me, I know, but I didn't have a camera handy to take any pictures.. my cellphone was even in the other room at the time, so this blog entry (and the various sms organizational texts) is the only digital record that the event ever occurred.

I gave a brief dvar Torah in honor of the event, where I spoke about words. No, really. In hebrew there are a number of words that mean 'word.' (מילה, דבר,תיבה, בית I'm sure there are even more that I can't think of at the moment.) But I chose to speak about two:
  1. Tay-vah (תיבה) - which is also an Ark, as in Noah's Ark.
  2. Bayit (בית) - which is also a house.
The Noam Elimelech (Reb Elimelech of Lizensk, a student of the Maggid of Mezritch who in turn was the foremost student of the Baal Shem Tov, conceiver of the Chasidic movement) discusses in parashat Noah that our words are vessels in which we can channel our desires and spirit.

The Notzer Hesed (Rebbe Yithak Isaac of Komarna, a student and nephew of the Ziditchover Rebbe Tzvi Hirsch, who was a student of Rebbe Yaakov Yitzhak, the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin, who was a student of The Noam Elimelech) says that tefillah (prayer) is called hayyei sha'ah, the life of the moment, and Torah study is called hayyei olam, life of the world or eternal life. He says that the life and connection that you attain to God in the moment of prayer (life of the moment) needs to be brought down to a permanence in this world (eternal life) through learning Torah right after you finish prayer.

The Baal HaTanya (Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi, originator of the Chabad movement, also a student of the Maggid of Mezritch) explains the importance of serving God through running (רץ) to God in moments of intense desire, and returning (שב) to the earth to share and digest the experience of God.

So this is an abbreviated version of what I taught:
When we pray, we put ourselves into the very words, the very expression of our prayers, and of our words we create travelling Arks (תיבה), that allow us to overcome the arduous journey of travelling the infinite distance to God. The Ark was built with a window to allow light to collect inside it. In these Arks we receive blessing/light from God. The Ark is the vessel for our running to God. We then (return to earth and) sit in Torah study where our words build houses (הבית - is the house, and is תיבה (ark) backwards) in which we may dwell. Houses or permanent dwellings in which we store and digest and grow the blessings that we received from God and stored in our Arks. The house then acts as the origin to bring out new creations (children and mitzvoth) and shine them into the world. The house's focus is outwards, whereas the Ark's focus is inwards.
This is the basic teaching: literally ride the words of your prayer to God, ready to receive everything you need directly from the source of all life. Then, sit in study of His Torah, and build permanent structures of your words in which to store that life, so that it can grow and in turn shine new abundant light into the world.


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