Creating a Bais Hashem

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Eikev

The Midrash says... King David said, “I have only one request of You, G-d, let me dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life.” Said G-d “One request! In the Book of Psalms there are hundreds of requests. Throughout your life you have made thousands of requests. How can you say you only have one request?” Said David, “I learned this from You. You said ‘What have I asked of you but to fear me?’ Haven’t You asked us to keep the Shabbos, give tzedaka, keep Kosher and at least 610 other things! Just as You said that You only have one request, I also have only one request.”

It sounds almost as if the King of Israel is playing word games with Hashem! It also sounds as if G-d bought the argument.

I remember listening to the radio while living in Australia. The commentator was talking about the surf off the Great Ocean Road as one of the greatest in the world. Surfers would travel from near and far to ride the Pacific Ocean surf. The commentator described the differences between the nationalities of those that come. The British, the Chinese, and the Israelis. Of course my ears perked up when he spoke of the American tourists. He said the Americans are unique. They bring the most hi tech, state of the art surfboards, specially designed surfing sunglasses and special radio equipment. All eyes are turned when they go out to surf, and than slush, they can’t stay above water. All the Australians stand on the beach and laugh.

The message hit me very hard. You can walk the walk and talk the talk but if you can’t stay above water it is really all for naught.

This is what Dovid learned from Hashem – the Rabeinu Tam Tefilin, the super glatt, the blue tzitzis and all the other trappings of the truly modern orthodox are extremely important. But they are but equipment that can be used very efficiently to develop a relationship with Hashem. If we put all our energy into the equipment without having the relationship, Hayosheiv BaShomayim Yischok, G-d stands on high and laughs. It’s the relationship that G-d wants. Dovid therefore says, “Achas Shealti” I have only one request, “Shivti Bveis Hashem”. Let me dwell in Your house.

This concept complicates life with its simplicity. The Rambam often speaks of the “nekuda haniflah”, the underlying point. We all search for the doctor, the economist, the technician and the overall problem solver that can find the main point. The one that can attribute 100 symptoms to one cause. All of the Mitzvahs have a direction, a central purpose, a main point, they help us think G-d. It is possible however to do all the Mitzvahs, expend all our energy on the very important minutia of the Mitzvah and at the same time miss the whole point of the Mitzvah. Perhaps it’s easier to put our efforts into the external aspect than to do the very difficult task of changing for the better. The Chofetz Chaim once commented that he has seen many people go through the Torah, but he has seen very few that the Torah went through them.

This sermon was actually said by Moses himself. All G-d wants, he said, is the relationship.

There is no relationship that’s good and doesn’t require much work. Friendship, parent child, student teacher, Rabbi congregant and of course husband and wife. It’s no different with G-d. If something wonderful happens we must have gratitude, there is no greater impediment to a relationship than a lack of appreciation. If something unfortunate takes place than we must ask, ‘Why G-d did you do this to me?’ And most of all in a relationship we must state our yearning, as King David did, Achas Shealti…”

What I and you and all of us together are trying to do is create the ultimate Bais Hashem. The place where we meet with each other and together with Hashem and we remain in this bond Kol yemei Chayai.

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