Follow by Email

Serving With Our Bodies

Dear Friends,

Prayer is often understood as an expression of the soul’s yearning for its Source; yet from the perspective of Jewish tradition, prayer is an expression of the yearning of the entire human being - the soul and the body - for the Creator. An example of this idea is found in the following verse from the Book of Psalms:
“O God, You are my God; at early dawn will I seek You. My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You, in a dry and weary land without water. (Psalm 63:2)
It is understandable that the soul - a spark of the Divine Essence - should yearn for God, but why does the “flesh” - the physical body - long for God? The beginning of an answer can be found in a verse from the Torah portion known as “Parshas Terumah,” where God proclaims:
“They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell within them.” (Exodus 25:8)
Two noted biblical commentators, Alshich and Malbim, point out that God does not say “I will dwell within it” - the Sanctuary, but “I will dwell within them” - the people.”  This verse is thereby expressing the idea that through the Divine service of the Sanctuary, the Shechinah - the Divine Presence - is to dwell within each member of the nation of Israel.
Our physical bodies have the potential to become a sanctuary for the Shechinah. This insight is discussed in the biblical commentary Maor V’Shemesh, written by Rabbi Klonimus Kalman. In his explanation of the above verse, he cites the ancient teaching of our sages that the Shechinah is to dwell on this earth (Genesis Rabbah 19:7). This includes the human body, states Rabbi Kalman; thus, the words “I will dwell within them” come to teach us that “each and every member of Israel should view himself as if holiness is dwelling within his inner physical organs.” This awareness, explains Rabbi Kalman, should inspire us to keep our bodies pure and holy through dedicating all of our limbs and organs to the service of Hashem - the Compassionate One; moreover, it should also inspire us to refrain from any activity which weakens this state of purity and holiness.
If the human body was created to be a “sanctuary for the Shechinah,” then we can understand why we pray: “my flesh longs for You.” The body is longing for the Presence of Hashem; it yearns to fulfill the purpose of its creation.
It is a universal longing, and in this spirit, we pray each Shabbos morning:
“For every mouth will offer thanks to You; every tongue shall vow allegiance to You; every knee shall bend to You; every erect spine shall bow before You; all hearts shall be in awe of You and all innermost feelings and thoughts shall sing praises to Your Name.” (Nishmas Prayer)
And we conclude this prayer with the following verse:
“Bless Hashem O my soul, and let all that is within me, bless His holy Name.”

A Good and Sweet Shabbos,

Yosef Ben Shlomo HaKohen


Hazon is the Hebrew word for vision. And Hazon was the name of a study-program based in Jerusalem which explored the universal vision of the Torah for Jews, humanity, and all creation.
Within the Torah is not only a vision, but a way to fulfill that vision through ethical and sacred deeds - the mitzvos; thus, Hazon also explores the mitzvos of the Torah, and how they bring us to our universal goal. 

The coordinator of Hazon was Yosef Ben Shlomo HaKohen, the author of “The Universal Jew - Letters to My Progressive Father” published by Feldheim Publishers.
His articles on Torah and universal issues have been published in the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Observer, and other publications.
May his teachings be a merit for all creation.

Read more Hazon