“They will build Me a mikdash [a sanctuary] and I will reside among them” Exodus 25:8


 We normally understand these words to refer to a physical building, mainly because the verse is found among the elaborate description of what the Mishkan (Tabernacle) should look like. But allow me to think about it differently.

The Midrash tells the story of Hillel the Elder going to the bathhouse, much to the surprise of his students who do not understand why he speaks of doing this as a religious obligation.

“Yes! If somebody who is appointed to scrape and clean the statues of the king that stand in the theatres and circuses is paid for the work and even associates with the nobility, how much more should I, who am created in the image and likeness of God, take care of my body?” (Vayikra Rabbah 34:3).

We are each that mikdash, that dwelling-place for the divine entity, and in the same way that we are taught to use only the finest of elements to build the physical building, out of respect, out of reverence, and out of duty, we should show the same care to our own bodies.

We should think about how we value our body and how we teach about the importance it has, and the responsibility we have been given in looking after it.

Looking after our bodies is not simply about protecting them, and setting boundaries around them, but it is truly, at the risk of sounding too clichéd, about learning to accept and welcome those bodies as holy dwelling-places, that occasionally might need some TLC and some care instead of attempting to create a uniform measure and standard for a them.

After all, though our synagogues today contain reminders of the mikdash, they do not resemble each other and do not resemble the shuls of yesterday or even the Temple in Jerusalem.

On Shabbat Zachor, we are commanded to remember what Amalek did to the Israelites, when he attacked them in a moment of vulnerability and fragility, taking advantage of their weakness, and we are commanded to blot out his name (Deuteronomy 25).

We should also learn from this the importance of showing ourselves kindness and compassion, and accepting that though we might feel critical of our bodies, they are, and we are, living sanctuaries.



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