Tefillah - 018 To Live In A Perfect Place
To Desire Perfection
והנורא – Hashem is the “Awesome One”. Yaakov Avinu was the one who said this term, “Nora”, “awesome”, when he exclaimed at the future site of the Beis HaMikdash - “How awesome is this place.”
The word nora comes from the word yirah\awe, which is the trait of Yitzchok Avinu. However, nora is referring to a more specific kind of yirah, and it personifies Yaakov Avinu. What is the difference between yirah, which is the general concept of awe, and nora, which is a more specific kind of awe?
With yirah, a person is afraid of something bigger than him. This can be a physical kind of fear, or it can be to fear something spiritual, such as to fear punishment. As it is written, “When the lion roars, who is not afraid?”
But nora is when a person expresses awe because he realizes that he is looking at perfection. Yaakov Avinu said, “How awesome is this place” – he was expressing his awe over the site of the Beis HaMikdash, the place which revealed perfection on this world. Thus, nora refers to yiras hashleimus, “awe of perfection”, and since it was expressed by Yaakov Avinu, it is the trait of Yaakov Avinu. Similarly, we find that the word Yerushalayim comes from the word yarei shalem, to “fear perfection”.
Praying For The Redemption: Longing For Perfection
Each day in Shemoneh Esrei, we daven for the Redemption. We daven for the revival of the dead, in the blessing of אתה גיבור. We daven for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash, in the blessing of ולירושלים. We daven for Moshiach, in the blessing of את צמח דוד. What is our intention as we daven for these things? From what point in our soul do these prayers emanate from?
It is because we long for a better world than the one we are in now, so we daven to Hashem for the redemption. Each of us has a yearning, deep down, to live in a world of complete purity and holiness. We are not referring to the nature of the soul to ascend spiritually; that is a different point. Spiritual ascension, aliyah, implies that we are climbing the rungs of a ladder, and that we wish to keep ascending upwards – this is a different point in our soul, and it is a lower point than the one we are discussing. Rather, we are referring to a more inner point in the soul - the soul’s desire that there should be shalom\peace in the world – world where there are no wars, just peace.
Ascension and Perfection
A person searches to be close to Hashem. What is the root behind this search? It is because our soul wants to live in a world of complete perfection; it wants to dwell in a situation of shleimus – a world of shalom\peace, a world in which all is good. So when we ask for the redemption in Shemoneh Esrei, it is really because we desire to live in a perfected kind of world.
The lower point in our soul is the point that seeks spiritual ascension, but it does not have a longing to live in a perfect world. There is a more inner point in our soul, a higher point, which seeks to live in a perfect world. This is a deeper ability in our soul than the part in us that seeks to ascend. This is the deep point in us that seeks perfection. It is reminiscent of the “suffering of Iyov” – Iyov wanted to reach perfection, so Hashem gave him suffering which would enable him to reach his aspiration.
Yaakov Avinu is the one who said nora, and thus, he sought perfection. He is also the one who was tam ,“wholesome” – a term that can also mean “shalem, “perfect.” Yaakov Avinu is also called the “choicest of the Avos.” From Yaakov Avinu, we received the power in the soul to seek perfection.
There is a contradiction going on inside our soul. The lower part of our soul is called our nefesh habehaimis – the “animal” part of the soul, our external layer; it is the part in us which seeks to improve, but it does not seek perfection. The inner layer of our soul, however, wants to reach total perfection.
The Sages state, “Whoever mourns Jerusalem, will merit to see it in its rejoicing.” A person is able to merit the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash in the current reality – it becomes revealed to his soul.
If someone doesn’t know about the inner layer of his soul, he has no happiness, inner peace, or holiness. But if someone does recognize his inner layer, he seeks perfection, and this is how our soul can express, “How awesome is this place”, just as Yaakov Avinu expressed about the site of the future Beis HaMikdash.
Two Ways How We Can Reach The Point of Perfection
There are two ways how we can reveal the inner layer of our soul.
One way is through yearning for perfection, to have aspirations for perfection – to shed tears over it.
A second way is to recognize the “hidden depths of our heart”, as the Chovos HaLevovos describes it. This is when our heart becomes a place where the Shechinah can dwell, when our heart becomes like a Mishkan within. It reached when we recognize, in a palpable sense, Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
If we reach this place in our heart, we will live in a place where there is only peace – the place of perfection in the world. In our own soul, we can reach a place in which we can express, “This is nothing except the House of G-d.” It is a place in the soul which is entirely pleasure, happiness, and perfection.
Life, on average, is seventy years. How do we get by life, which is full of so much suffering and troubles? The answer is, we live in two worlds. We live on the physical planet earth, which is full of suffering, but at the same time, we can also live in a world which is completely peace. Life on this physical world is actually not real life – it is death! But if a person penetrates into the depths of his heart, he can merit to reveal Hashem in his soul, and then he will receive an entirely new kind of life. He will able to live internally, in an inner world of purity and perfection, while at the same time his body is here on this earth, the “world of action.” We all have the free choice to choose to live in the inner layer of reality; we are able to connect to it.
The way a person can do this is, to accept upon himself the yoke of Torah. When the Jewish people were given the Torah, Hashem said, “If you accept the Torah, good; if not, you will be buried under this mountain.” In other words, life without accepting the Torah is like being buried alive. It is a life that is not a life, but a deathlike kind of existence. When the Jewish nation stood by Har Sinai, they were told that they would be there under the mountain if they don’t accept the Torah. Nowadays, it can be said that if a person doesn’t have the Torah in his life, he is buried right here, in the very place he stands…
A person can live life with his physical body being on the physical earth, doing what he has to do in this “world of action”, while at the same time remaining connected to his heart inside. Such a person will be able to survive life and all its painful situations.
May we all merit, with Hashem’s help, to connect our minds with our hearts.