Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Two-Minute Torah: How Beautiful Are Your Feet in Their Shoes

While we tend to think of Yom Kippur as simply the continuation of the period of teshuvah which starts with Rosh Hashanah, rabbinic tradition holds that Yom Kippur is the date that Moses came down from Sinai with the second set of Tablets after the sin of the Golden Calf.

Right after Moses came down the second time, the Torah describes the construction of the Tabernacle. The people had experienced a spiritual high at Mt. Sinai but shortly thereafter they built the Golden Calf. God then realized that the people needed something more concrete. We cannot live in a permanent state of spiritual ecstasy, so God gave us instructions to build a place of worship. This is much more concrete and prosaic than God’s appearance at Sinai.

R. Akiva Eiger in Itturei Torah connects the building of the Tabernacle to a verse in Song of Songs. Song of Songs is a love song but it is understood allegorically as the “love affair” between God and the Jewish people. There is a line where the male lover – understood as God – says to the female lover – i.e., the Jews “mah navu raglayich ba’min’alim” – how beautiful are your feet in their shoes. What does this mean?

One of the prohibitions of Yom Kippur is the wearing of shoes – today we understand this to mean the prohibition only of leather shoes but back then they didn’t have sneakers. So “in your shoes” means the day after Yom Kippur.

Everyone is righteous and pious on Yom Kippur. It’s not such a big deal that you are a good    Jew and a good person on Yom Kippur. The question is what kind of person you are the day after.

The Tent of Meeting was a way for the Israelites to continue the spiritual high of Yom Kippur. “OK, now you have the tablets and they are a visible sign of reconciliation, now go and do concrete acts.”

What concrete acts will you perform on the day after Yom Kippur?

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