We read in Deuteronomy: “Adonai, your God, goes along in the midst of your camp, to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you. Therefore your camp shall be holy so that God should not see anything unseemly among you.” (23:15)
While I take a more universalist approach, believing in a God who is concerned about the fate and welfare of all of humanity, I love the idea of God’s presence in our midst. This isn’t a new conception in Torah, for we also read:
“Let them make for Me a sanctuary that I might dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8)
Nor is it a new conception in rabbinic thought, as we read in the writings of Joseph Soloveitchik:
“Halakhic man declares: the higher longs and pines for the lower…
and he possesses the tools to make it so.”
The idea isn’t new, but we still have yet to embrace it in practice. Too often we, I, act in ways convenient or self-interested but far removed from our highest values. Too often I worry God would have cause to look upon our actions, mistreatment of others, our world as unseemly.
The high holy days give us a chance to press reset, to try again. To embrace this week’s Torah portion in the modern day, we would do well to follow the teaching of Danny Siegel:
“If you always assume the person sitting next to you
is the Messiah waiting for some simple human kindness —
You will soon come to weigh your words and watch your hands.
And if the person chooses not to be revealed in your time —
It will not matter.”