up in smoke

The divine presence was only revealed within the Beit HaMikdash and the Mishkan when they were filled with the smoke of the ketoret. (the incense offering)

This is interesting in a purely physical sense, because we know with light and especially lasers, that the path of a laser isn't (generally) readily visible, unless the air is full of particulate matter. This is also true of the sun's rays shining through on partially clouded days. Light can only be briefly glimpsed directly, as a source of brightness, or as illumination on the surface of something else. Sometimes though, (as in the examples above: the laser and the rays of sunshine) filling an area with a cloud of something allows us to gain more insight into the way the light moves, how and wear it is travelling.

On an entirely different level, perhaps the same principle applies. We know that God can't be viewed directly, he warns Mosheh, לא יראני האדם וחי - man cannot see me and live. We also know that when God does reveal himself, it is through some mask, some outer clothing that shields us from the full effect of seeing God, if such a thing can be spoken about. כִּי בֶּעָנָן, אֵרָאֶה עַל-הַכַּפֹּרֶת (For in a cloud will I reveal myself on the covering of the ark. Vayikra 16:2)

We can learn something really amazing from the fact that God is revealed in the smoke of the incense offering. The word smoke, עשן, which is used to describe har Sinai as כלו עשן -entirely smoke- can also be read as an acronym that stands for עולם ,שנה ,נפש - World, Year, Soul. These are three dimensions, or three separate levels that comprise the major aspects of the world, Space, Time, and Consciousness.

From this we see that Space, Time, and Consciouness are all simply veils that not only protect us, and allow us to interact with God, despite our puny finitude, but also that they were created for the express purpose of God revealing himself to us, through them.

Just like our post in which Rebbe Nachman explained that our body is the most direct way to our soul. Here we see that Space, Time, and Consciousness are the most direct channels to God.

This can actually be seen in Tefillin and Tallith. Rebbe Natan in Likkutei Halachoth relates how Tzitzith represent one's place. As long as we aren't in our appropriate place, it seems like there's no room for us at all, and we feel suffocated and squeezed into existence. When we find our apporpriate place, appointed by God, then we can relate to and connect to God, and actually we become the space of the world, an attribute normally limited to HaShem Himself.

Similarly, Rebbe Natan explains that Time is a more refined version of Space, in that it is more fine and more difficult to connect to. Yom Kippur is completely above time, and for this reason we wear our Tallith from the very start of Yom Kippur, because the Tallith connects us to Time in a way that we can relate to time, without being trapped within it. [It occurs to me that Teshuvah can be seen as literal time travel.]

The Tefillin, on the other hand, connect our consciousness and our mind to the mind of HaShem. The Tefillin represent the whole Torah, and since the Torah stems from the Will (רצון) of God, by making our will His Will, (by subjecting ourself to his Torah by laying Tefillin) we connect our consciousness to His.

When next you pray, be aware that you are surrounding yourself in the עשן, the smoke, through which HaShem reveals himself to His people. This should help in envisioning yourself in the Holy Temple while you are praying.

Perhaps through Space, Time, and Consciousness we can ascend into the smoke of Har Sinai, which would explain what Mosheh meant when he told us that we didn't go up the mountain (as we should have) despite God explicitly telling us not to go up the mountain.


Related posts

Blog Widget by LinkWithin