Mikdash Me'at

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, May 21, 2010

Synagogues, study houses, and even homes are called mikdash me'at, a small temple. According to the Talmud (Megilah 29a), God will dwell in the holy spaces we create, for they are the Temple in miniature.

Ezekiel cries out (11:13), "Lord God, you are wiping out the remnant of Israel." God responds by declaring that He has "removed them far among the nations and have scattered them among the countries, and I have become to them a mikdash me'at, a small sanctuary".

The sages have chosen to read God's becoming a mikdash me'at as a reassurance of God's presence in exile. However, others read it as another affliction of exile. The small temple is a diminished Temple, a sign of the restriction of God's presence. The comfort begins only in God's next words to Ezekiel, (v.17), "Yet . . . I will gather you from the peoples . . . and I will give you the Land of Israel."

The ambiguity of mikdash me'at is that of the exile experience itself, one of suffering and restriction and yet of great creativity and achievement. But it is only me'at, small, compared to what the Jewish people can achieve when united in its homeland.

Last updated: 2:23pm, May 21 2010