Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour
Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.
This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:
Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.
Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.
Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.
Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.
The intensest rendezvous?
A rhetorical encounter with meaning?
Are God and the imagination one?
Is God, then, always personal?
Is it possible to imagine God with someone else’s imagination?
Yes. We call that imagining; tradition.
For two thousand years our traditional prayers have assumed a time when the broken will be fixed and the Third and final Temple reconstructed in Jerusalem. The paradigm is set with the first and Second Set of the Ten Teachings (Commandments). Moses is congratulated for breaking the first set after the people danced around the golden calf. The Reconstructed Tablets, are received on the Day of Atonement.
So too the Temple’s. The Priests in Solomon’s Temple allow the worship to devolve to idolatry, and it is destroyed. The people Israel are given a second chance and a Second Temple. Should we be imagining and anticipating a third chance? A Third Temple?
I am of two minds about the Third Temple. One may imagine a Third Set of Tablets with Ten Teachings on Redemption and a renewal of everything Old and New. I have written testaments to this vision. On the other mind is the rational conclusion from our history that religious buildings do not always inspire the people to righteousness.
Enough already. Accept the verdict of the True Judge. The blessing of the exile is twofold, for we are now universal citizens who learn true humility from true humiliation. The Arête that was on the temple mount in Jerusalem is now within all who have true character.
What do I say to those who sincerely believe a third temple is the ultimate good? I am not sure. My favorite part of the temple is an empty room.
I do welcome a house cleaning of belief and pray for the good news of a return of the feminine to Jerusalem. She will clean up the blood and guts and filth of antiquated doctrines. Welcome Home Shechina.
Our traditional prayers all assume a time of Tikkun, when the broken will be fixed and the Third and final temple built in Jerusalem. We pray God to return to Jerusalem and to dwell there again, as promised. We pray for an everlasting building, and ask that the throne of David be set up speedily in our days. Our formal prayers are sealed with a plea for the rebuilding of the Temple “There we will serve with awe; as in the good old days of ancient years.” The good old days?
Next, in our liturgy, it is time for personal prayer. This is what I pray:
May it be imagined that our history will not be eternal return, that we not relive the past and imagine our Temple as the ultimate good.
Solomon’s temple fell because we embraced the strange worship of violence and revealed our nakedness, thus breaking our covenant.
The Second Temple fell because the cult burned itself out, and irrational hatred ruled. Rabbi Shammai and his school of thought led us astray.
Both destructions and exiles were a blessing.
Will the broken walls remain as ruins to remind us of a past we must not repeat?
My friend Malachi calls on an Announcing Angel to fix that which is broken.
The ancient cult was broken because the widows and orphans and strangers were not served. Sorcery and adultery and false witness and cheating the working class were the ancient way.
Some things never change. We still cheat God by not giving our fair share to the poor. We are called again and again to be mindful of the Teachings that demand righteousness and ritual. Ritual that inspires righteousness is good. All else is prayer to broken stone.
So what shall I announce? Do I look like an angel to you?
Is the end of the nightmare of history near?
Is this movie swirling inward on its disc to The End?
A happily ever after or a Hollywood be Thine Name?
You want a Third and Final Temple? Another building called Holy?
Will this hasten the coming of the Redeemer or Redemption of Zion?
Or start World War Four?
You say I am to implement the plan? Solomon’s? Shammai’s?
Who will listen?
Moderns are rationally indifferent.
Modern Priests must revision. They are drawn to the blood, or the bread, dipped in the salt on the ancient altars. All this is strange worship, and changes nothing. Broken bread does not always image the face of God.
Religion does not always recognize the vital boundary.
I am holding my tongue.
Announce The Final Temple you say.
Is the messenger’s message to obey?
I am honestly not sure.
So, my friend, this explains why the voice blew me in with a cold wind from my job in a soup kitchen in Miami to the steel city in November.
I arrive without a coat and the saintly docent of the Heinz Chapel brings me into the warmth.
God bless her, for I appear as a homeless person.
She sits me down and brings tea. I feel a light, a power, and then the miraculous influence of the chapel and the limestone and the stained windows. I feel the obscurity of an order, a whole, a knowledge which
arranges this rendezvous.
“What is your name” I ask the docent.
“Karen it is, and onomatopoetic!” I say.
The light of the stained glass windows enters my eyes and illuminates my central mind.
Yes, this chapel may be the stepping stone to the Final Temple.
Beethoven and Isaiah are illuminated in the late morning sun. Stained glass scientists and statesmen and women share windows. Karen turns on the Chapels Pipe organ with its 4,272 pipes and thirteen ranks and pulls out all the stops. I levitate and dance with Roy G Biv. I am half way home.
I borrow binoculars from Karen since the flow of the windows is upward, and I crane my neck to catch a vision of the whole. I want to ascend a ladder to get a close look at the higher pieces of stained glass. Even with the lenses my sight is limited. I spy a crowned image on the arête of the window and Karen shyly says it might be the face of God.
So this is the American version of The Final Temple, and America is a Nation with the soul of a church, so I praise the Heinz family vision and vow to support the upkeep of this sacred shrine of color and sound and light.
The staff is extremely patient. I insist on spending three full days watching the sun, the highest candle, and make dwellings in the glass. Just being here is enough. I wrap myself in my prayer shawl and feel the miraculous influence once again.
I imagine a story that is a torah. Look up to the Alp and see charity, and faith, and hope, and justice, and wisdom. Practice to perfection the seven acts of virtue, modeled on a Mishna in Peah, give drink to those who thirst, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, the incarcerated, and bury the dead.
In a word, ah ha va.
An ah-ha moment.
Love your neighbor, and the” I Am” will be your God.
Isaiah’s window comforts. I lift up my eyes and see David, my King, and Mother Mary, and Joan of Arc and Columbus and the first Thanksgiving in America in 1620.
All this rests on a scripture, Isaiah 40:31:
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
Yes, this is God’s will.
And for those who complain about the length of the exile and my silence, know that the promises are not forgotten. These windows continue the teaching that the Ruler of the Universe is still the author of history, and that history continues into the heartland and from sea to shining sea.
The good old U.S. of A. is a dream of Zion, if not Jerusalem, from Atlantic to Pacific.
The windows are an Ushpizin in an American tabernacle. Joseph is invited, as is traditional, and so are Pocahontas and Ruth, and Emily Dickenson, welcome additions. The Christian saints are all invited, as well as the Founding Fathers and Mothers of our great nation. All pilgrims appear, and progress, with integrity and Arête, to the Tree of Life.
The grail is found in these windows, as we acknowledge immortality in the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Shubert.
Daniel is daily, (as the sun shines through his window), saved from the fiery furnace.
Finally my eyes are drawn to my theme, as the parent religion declares awe as the beginning of wisdom. The children turn and declare, with faces of light, their belief in the light.
I sit silently and watch with delight.
Karen returns and waits for me to speak first. She has learned well from these windows.
I ask her when this Chapel was dedicated and my eyes widen at her answer.
The Fall of 1938
The docent whispers that the Chapel was dedicated in November of 1938.
The same fall that brought Kristalnacht, the Night of the Breaking of the Glass. On this night The Angel of History turned the mountain on its head and crushed the Arête of Revelation.
This time, not the wedding, but the marriage, was over, with the breaking of the glass.
The roof was ripped from off of our heads, our garments torn, and our relationship at an apparent end. This was more than a lover’s quarrel. God hates divorce but I hate it even more. I am not so sure about reconciliation. We are all orphans of the breakup. Why do you think I have been silent for so long?
Kristalnacht. The night of the broken windows and the night of the Broken Tablets. Olam Hashvera, according to Kabballah. The broken glass is stained with blood.
The actual Tablets on the Ark in our families Temple in Germany were burned. I close my eyes and see the glass shattering once again, as the war against the Ten Teachings is declared. The Ark is aflame, and then the wooden Two Tablets of Testimony. The “Thou shall not’s ”are burned away. The revelation of the anti-Moses is proclaimed:
My father reluctantly told me what he saw as an eight year old.
Hitler youth, Nazi’s in training, pick the oldest and most frail of the Jews up by their heals to smash their skulls against the wall like melons.
The fall of 1938.
And the good Americans were here in the city of steel forging a vision of renewal in glass and sound and spire. May God bless the Heinz family.
I sit in the chapel of vision and see a world that the imagination offers as an alternative to fascism.
This is the God I glorify.
Pittsburg, even in its depression, builds this chapel that spirals to Arête and keeps the vision of the prophets, the lives of the saints, and the music of the spheres, alive.
“I would like to rededicate this chapel”, I say, “as the Mount Zion of American architecture. The third temple will be inspired by the visions of this chapel. I will invite the greatest visionaries of our time to submit blueprints for the final temple.”
I stopped myself.
I am expected to speak with authority. Legend has me as the answer man.
Really, I am mostly silent, since I am so unsure, and I do have the wisdom to reframe rather than answer questions.
Karen: “So if you don’t mind me asking, just who are you?”
“I.I. I am.Well, let’s just say a benefactor. And an architect. And many say, announcer.”
“Just what will you be announcing?”
“Well; for now a contest.”
“The Final Temple. In Jerusalem. I need blueprints. Plans. I said.
The Heinz chapel will be a prototype.”
“Maybe this is the third temple”, Karen responded.
“Yes, but uh no, no,” I say, “a model. This cathedral is a manifestation of the best of the American Christian imagination.”
“But, this chapel is interdenominational” she protests.
“Yes, my point exactly. This is the still point in an American turning world. X marks the spot. But the foundation stone remains in Jerusalem. This Chapel remains distinctly American and distinctly Christian.”
I had not yet won over my patient new friend, but as you may have guessed, I am not so sure myself about the “final”.
Karen: “So, if I might ask, what are your thoughts on the next step towards your Temple in Jerusalem?”
“Oy”, I sighed, “well first, I turn to my colleague Isaiah who sets the stage by imagining a temple that is a house of prayer for all people.”
I say, happy to remember the chapter and verse because of the numbers sequence. A nice ring. “A House of Prayer for all People.” “But how?” I continue. “Once the blueprints are drawn and foundation poured and stories added, who will write a liturgy of such scope and vision?
“What about the holy shrine of Islam that sits on the very spot considered by all to be the center of all maps and the gateway to heaven?” Karen asks.
“It remains”, I mutter.
“My people are left with a wall, and wailing, and lamentations, and kitschy bar/t mitzvahs for American children as mature as the Simpsons.” I add.
Karen: “Are you sure it is worth risking world war three, or four, to build a Temple?”
“Well, honestly, final Isaiah throws a curve ball by implying it just might be impossible to build a Temple for God. He is also of two minds about yet another religious building. But The Temple is not for God. Temples are for people. And for us its one two three strikes you’re out in the old temple game.
“Soooooo.” Karen says and smiles, “are you going to take another swing?”
“I am honestly not sure. Every week we are offered a dwelling in the Temple in Time of Shabbat. On Shabbat we experience the Shalom of the coming world. Any Temple building that backs us up into a wall of violence is prohibited. The Final Temple is a sanctuary to prolong life, not cut it short. The original Isaiah deserves his verses, as the most quoted, that nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn or teach war anymore.”
I see a flicker of recognition in Karen’s eyes but I am not yet ready to tell her who I am. She sees more than a homeless person. True, I trimmed my beard in Florida, but I have always had a Wildman look about me, a Whitman prototype more than a tamed rabbi.
Karen looked around at her building and said; “Why not have a Temple in the New Jerusalem? Kinda nice to have a roof over our heads if it rains.
I hear it even snows in Jerusalem. A section of the temple mount remains open to building.”
“That it does”, I respond. “But first, just buy a hat, or an umbrella, for the third temple is everyone’s very own body. The Third temple is also under the roof of your home if you consecrate your dining room or kitchen table into an altar. Being there together is enough. ”
Karen is insistent, saying; “here I am trying to convince you, the architect, to think of the Third temple also as a building. What gives? Who are you? Really?”
“Yes. Well,” I say again, avoiding the question, “I think this is all about timing. I am not sure the world is ready for another building. It may take another thousand years for the world to be ready for a house of prayer for all people.
Karen shakes her head no. “I am ready, and sitting in one at this very moment.”
I smile. “Yes this may just have to do in the meantime.”
“If I may,” she continues, “you are not the only one who has made a study of all this, and I turn you to the final book of my belated testament.
Revelation. My Arête. The wedding is coming and the bride will have her chambers. As this chapel inspires; may your house of prayer for all people announce; Shalom to the North, and East, and West, and South. The world is in need of good news.”
I am silent, for I cannot disagree.