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Rabbi Herbert Yoskowitz joins Cantor Max Shimansky
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DR. RICHARD C. HERTZ SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
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hat is the Jewish con- ficult to define. The Talmud has
nection with God? The- a story to illustrate it. Once the
ologians are accus- Roman Emperor Hadrian asked
tomed to using two dif- Rabbi Joshua ben Hanania,
ferent words, two different ideas ` `Rabbi, I want to see your God."
that come out with two different Joshua lead the Emperor out-
interpretations. One is tran- doors and said, "Sire, look up into
scendence; the other is imma- the sun." "I cannot," the Emper-
or replied. "I cannot look up di-
They both concern themselves rectly into the sun." Then said
with God's relation to the world. Joshua, "If you cannot look at a
But the question that bothered servant of God, how much less
the rabbis of the Talmud was, "Is will you be able to see the Shehi-
God so far removed from His chil- na?"
According to the Talmud, the
dren or is He so near to them?"
When they reflected upon the in- Shehina is the radiance of God
effable majesty of the creator of that makes His presence mani-
the universe, His absolute per- fest everywhere in everything. It
fection, His boundless might, they is the sense of the sacred that one
spoke of God as being immea- feels in the sanctuary. It is the
surably removed from the limi- feeling of reverence and majesty
that one gets as he enters and
tations of the cosmic world.
That was a transcendent idea looks up at the eternal light of the
of God, infinitely above and be- ark or the menorah and feels the
presence of God.
yond the world.
On the other hand, the rabbis
were troubled with such specu-
lations about God. The idea of a
transcendent God so far removed
from mortal man was of little use
to the average person grappling
with the problems of making a
living and eking out some sense
It is the feeling of companion-
of meaning in life. The average
man yearns for a comforter, a ship with God that a sick person
guide to which a person can turn has in a hospital in a moment of
amid the perplexities of his dai- silent devotion and communion,
praying that the Great Healer
The rabbis stress the idea that will give him strength for recov-
God is immanent; in other words, ery. The word Shehina is often
He is very near to all who call used in Judaism in place of God
upon Him in truth and sincerity. to avoid the suggestion that God
Our sedrah today, concluding the is a corporal being. The rabbis
reading of the Book of Exodus, use the word Shehina to express
deals with this very question. one's faith in a higher being
Scripture tells us that the labo- whose presence can be felt if not
rious work of building a sanctu- seen.
The idea of shehina is what
ary in the wilderness was now
makes a traditional priestly bene-
Punctiliously, all the precise diction the most sacred blessing
specifications laid down in the in all of Judaism. When we say,
earlier chapters of Exodus have "May the Lord let His counte-
now been followed. The taber- nance shine upon thee and be
nacle was now ready to be used. gracious unto thee," we really
Then Scripture says, "Then the mean, "May the Shehina rest
cloud covered the tent of meeting upon thee. May the presence of
and the glory of the Lord filled God go with thee."
That is why tradition says you
the tabernacle." What does that
mean? Since God is not a corpo- must never look up when receiv-
ral being, doesn't this imply a ing the priestly benediction but
spiritual manifestation of God's always stand with bowed head so
presence in the tabernacle? How that the Shehina like the rays of
can God's presence in the glory of the sun, do not blind you.
There was a legend that the Is-
God be there?
The ancient rabbis had a word raelites of the desert, and partic-
for it. They called the presence ularly Moses, were disturbed
of the glory of God "the Shehina." when they were building the
It is the Shehina that really is the sanctuary. The question arose in
their minds, how could God fill
Jewish connection with God.
The word Shehina is very dif- all this space as the Creator of
heaven and earth and choose
such an earthly dwelling place for
Dr. Richard C. Hertz is rabbi
Himself as tiny as the taberna-
emeritus of Temple Beth El.
I Kings 7:51-8:21.