Tuesday, 10 March 2020
In a recent article in the latest issue of 'Kesher' (Winter/Spring 2020), Carl Kinbar quotes from the Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael to teach about the shekhinah, the Divine Presence:
In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you (Exodus 20:24), that is, in the Temple ... Rabbi Eliezer b. Ya'akov says: [The Lord says:] If you come to my house I will come to your house, but if you do not come to my house I will not come to your house. To the place my heart loves, there my feet lead me.
From here [Exodus 20:24] they [derived and] said: Wherever ten persons assemble in a synagogue, the Shekhinah is with them, as it is said: God stands in the congregation of God (Psalm 82:1). And how do we know that He is also with three people holding court? It says: Among the judges he judges (ibid.). And how do we know that He is also with two? It is said: Then those who feared the Lord spoke one with another, etc. (Mal 3:16). And how do we know that He is even with one? It is said: In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.
"Rabbi Eliezer," Carl explains, "imagines the situation that existed when God dwelled in the Temple and the Torah required Jewish males to go up to Jerusalem three times each year to celebrate feasts (Deut 16:16). If Jews love God's house, they will come up to the Temple on these occasions and God will respond by visiting them in their synagogues and where they gather in small numbers."
The article goes on:
"Ten" in the minimum number of Jews God required to hold full liturgical services. The Shekhinah is with them. "Three" refers to the number who serve as judges in civil and criminal cases. The Shekhinah is with them. "Two" refers to a "hevruta" or "study pair." The Shekhinah is with them. The Shekhinah will even be with "one" who keeps God's name in mind. However, this is not a long-term or permanent dwelling with them, but is contingent on the continued righteous behaviour of the individuals involved.
In the rest of the article, Carl continues his survey of the Midrash and then moves back two hundred years to the Apostolic writings. If you would like to see where he takes his argument, you can visit the Kesher Journal website.