Yesterday was Rav Kook's yahrzeit, and I found myself carrying around a special book of his teachings - "Chadarav", this title taking from Shir Hashirim 1:4 - "hevi'ani hamelech chadarav" - the King brought me to His (innermost) chambers. In this precious book are collected some of the most reflective, insighful and intimately revealing teachings of Rav Kook - it is truly a gem. The editors chose the following midrash to open with:
"Just as the Holy One - praised be He! - has a room of rooms of rooms in His Torah, likewise do the Sages, each one of them, have a room of room of rooms in their Torah".
Last night we were invited to a sheva berachot meal for Shaya, the son of our neighbors, and his kallah, Dina. As I was eating the delicious meal and enjoying the company of our small neighborhood, I felt moved to share with the newlyweds the following thoughts, inspired by Rav Kook:
It is not only the Sages who have chambers within chambers in their minds and hearts filled with the teachings of the Divine. Every single person has within him/her a dazzling array of chambers, leading one to the next, connected in unexpected ways, each filled with glistening treasure never beheld before. But, sadly, it is the case that not only do we not discern such complexities, depths and riches when we behold our fellow human being, but the individual him/herself is often unaware of any but the level and a half closest to the surface. And when we do get a glimpse of something beckoning, something beyond, we also immediately sense the difficulties and the dangers in store for those who would try to explore their own depths: confusion, self-delusion, and wishf-fulfillment might lead us in endless circles.
And in truth, how CAN we presume to enter such places? If, indeed, there is a divine spark at the very core of our beings, perhaps we must leave it to burn in solitude, allowing its light to cast a safe, gentle illumination, much as we must shield the core of a nuclear reactor in order to derive benefit from the intensity of its power. Indeed, even that ultimate of inner chambers, the Holy of Holies of the Temple, the repose of the Shechina, was entered only once a year, only by the Kohen Gadol, who immediately surrounded himself with a swirling, intoxicating cloud of incense to shield him from the Presence. How deflating, just as one is about to behold the Divine with unparalleled immediacy, one's senses and orientation are clouded over, and one is whisked away.
Yet, there is another Kohen, the Kohen who burns the Red Heifer, which restores life by removing the pollution of death, which atones for the paradigmatic flight from divine immediacy, the sin of the Egel Hazahav. This kohen stands at a seemingly terrible remove from the innermost room of rooms - he stands on the Mount of Olives as he renders the Red Heifer into purifying dust. But the halacha stipulates that he must be standing such that his line of sight gives him an unoccluded view, through all the gates, throught courtyards and chambers and hallways, right up to the Holy of Holies. From here, from this vantage point, all is clear. What the Kohen Gadol cannot see from ground zero, the Kohen who burns the Red Heifer on the other side of the valley can show him.
Shaya and Dina, who could be farther apart that chatan and kallah. Each a separate person, with his/her own biography, history, family, friends, inclinations, idiosycracies. One is male, the other female, a world of difference right there. You met what seems like only a moment ago. How could there presume to be the makings of a union, a greater whole here. Is not each of us our own Kohen Gadol, ceaselessly braving the baffles of our own beings in search of those treasures waiting for us, preserved only for us, in the virgin territory of our own hearts.
The deep teaching of the Torah is that it is precisely that other Kohen, standing on the ridge seemingly so far away, that can show the other the way to his own core, by standing, gazing, yearing, refusing to run away, by being there. At that moment, there is the discovery of/return to the primal room when, forty days before birth, a heavenly voice rang out proclaiming a unity to be realized only years later: The daughter of this one is destined for that one!!
And, just like there is a special room, there is also a special moment - that moment that, unbeknownst to you, you knew. That is the "eit dodim" the moment of love, spoken of in Shir HaShirim. Can it be mere coincidence that, in gematria, Yeshayahu (your full, given name) and Dina add up to 470, the numerical value of "eit" (moment)?
May you both be blessed to guide each other to the ever-more splendid chambers of each others soul, with encouragement, with vision, with love.