Two important new buildings opened in DC this September, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Trump International Hotel. In its own way, each building provokes us to consider the goals of our actions. One stands as a reminder to transcend prejudice, showing us how far we can fall from a Heavenly standard. The other serves up a standard of luxury that is heavenly for well-heeled guests from a proprietor who offers his own temporal standards of behavior. Each building demonstrates how far we can deviate from God-inspired ideals.
Thinking about edifices as reminders, we could say that Jews have the Torah as a construction code. The instructions of the fifth book, Deuteronomy, read this time of year, serve as a blueprint to build a better world. Each individual is zoned for goodness as mapped out by the Creator. These Yamim Noraim, days of awe, are a chance to go before the review board. We renovate our spiritual real estate - gauge our actions, re-engineer our approach and open the doors of our souls to behavior inspired by Heaven. We even place mezuzas, like construction permits, on the doorposts of our buildings.
Detailed instructions are prominently etched in our memories by Torah: care for the widow and orphan, leave something for the poor, treat your neighbor just as you would want to be treated. Torah even teaches us to build a parapet around our roof so no one falls off. The rules and regulations, we call mitzvoth, are not lofty ideals but daily practices to be observed.
In parashat Nitzvaim, which we read this week before Rosh Hashanah, God states that these instructions are for us to actuate. It is not only in Heaven for deeds of loving-kindness to be performed. It is not across the sea for others to follow this moral path. We are not to rely on others, no less heavenly intercessors, to improve this world. Rather, it is in our hands to build this world from love. Each of us is employed as a construction worker on this project .
We must learn to activate the words of Torah with boundless humanity and earth saving actions. There is no limit to the goodness we can each bring to the world if inspired by a Heavenly standard. A world that has transcended prejudice and ended all slavery. A world that values honesty, integrity, and charity along with comfort and freedom.
As a rabbi in this paradigm, I get to serve as spiritual property inspector. My question for you is what will you do to construct Heaven right here on this earth? Start with your own soul renovation project and please start today.
R’ Evan J. Krame