Jerusalem is under attack. Every day, fearless marauders seek to infiltrate and bomb its dedicated, peaceful citizens. At every opportunity, the so-called academics and intelligentsia of a phantom people seek to undermine the legitimacy of the Jews’ connection to their homeland while they deceptively promote it as their own. And the elected leaders of Israel seek to capitulate to its enemies as a misguided way of gaining legitimacy in the international court. If we, the Jewish people, want to continue our reign as the moral beacon for humanity and retain the integrity of the ethical idealism that is at the core of Judaism, we must apply those ideals to our own struggle. We must, at the very least, launch a defense.
But what is Jerusalem to us? The focal point of Jerusalem is and always was the Temple Mount. The Temple was an amazing, awe-inspiring palace in which people actually experienced and felt spirituality and the presence of G-d. The Temple was the source from which spirituality emanated to the entire world. And not just for the Jews – thousands of non-Jews flocked to the Temple as well, seeking to tap into the experience, and the material and spiritual blessings that came with it. It is ironic to think that human beings actually had a hand in its destruction.
Then the Temple was destroyed – at least the physical manifestation of it was. And the interface between heaven and earth shifted to the human heart – the Temple within your soul. So if we want to keep the flame of Jerusalem burning, it is there – in the Temple within – that the work must now be done. The primary form of worship in the Temple was the animal sacrifices. Similarly, there is also an animal within each individual that needs to be coaxed to offer itself as a sacrifice on the altar of the Temple within. The animal is you. The sacrifice is to give of yourself, of your desires, your selfishness, your ego, your talents, your idiosyncratic worldview… to sacrifice the selfish intent that plagues them and utilize them instead for the sake of something greater – use your gifts to love someone else, to assist someone in need, to feel the oneness of nature, to connect with the divine. Because as long as the beast within is roaming free, one is enslaved by its animalism, and one can never be free to experience the transcendent.
The beast within can take on many forms, just as there are different species of animals used in the Temple service. The beast can take on the characteristics of a sheep – gentle, harmless and even cute and charming, aside from the smell. But an overall lazy animal, preoccupied with grazing, sleeping, fornicating and otherwise pursuing its own selfish desires (sound like anyone you know?). Or the beast within can be a bull, with tremendous abilities in productive labor, but potentially angry and domineering and a menace to anyone who gets in its way (sound like anyone you know?). Or the beast can be a bird, graceful and transcendent, but totally self-absorbed and interested only in its own high, completely oblivious and insensitive to others, capable of excreting on those who simply pass underneath (sound like anyone you know?).
So we all have an animal within. The question is, what can we do about it?
Some people think that sacrificing the beast means that you have to bring it down to its knees and destroy it. But, ultimately, such an approach denies the fact that the animal within has a purpose, too – one that is intrinsically tied to the purpose of the individual. Ultimately, the animal needs to be sensitized and educated, it needs to learn to dance to the tune of the soul… it needs to become human. Because, like a horse and rider, the beast and the soul can accomplish much more together than either could hope to on its own.
Metaphysically then, the experience of the Temple within is no different than that of the physical Temple, with the same potential for spiritual euphoria and consciousness of the divine. The only difference is that it is no longer handed to us on a silver platter; then, all we had to do was show up, but now generating the experience is up to us. And like the physical process of generating energy, it ain’t always pretty – the machinery sputters and makes all sorts of horrific grunts and noises, the friction is tremendous and the breakdowns all too common. But, if at the end of the day some light turns on, then you can be confident that progress is being made.
Despite the most valiant efforts of the most heroic soldiers, the struggle for Jerusalem is not fought on the battlefields. Despite the skillful oratory of the defenders of Israel and the Jewish people in the universities, the media and the sphere of international governance, the struggle for Jerusalem is not fought in public debates. My intent is not to detract from the importance of their work, nor the enormity of their dedication; their contributions are indeed extraordinary, but they alone will not determine the outcome. The struggle for Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple takes place at every moment in the relatively obscure battlefield – the obscure, yet monumental battlefield – within the heart of every individual. And it is there, more than anywhere else, that the battle will be won.