“Speak to Aharon your brother – he shall not come at all times into the Sanctuary …” (Vayikra 16:2)
We learn that the Kohen Gadol was forbidden to enter the Kodesh HaKadashim (the Sanctuary) at will. R’ Nissim Yagen asks: Why shouldn’t the Kohen Gadol be permitted to increase kedusha within the world by being allowed access to the profusion of holiness in the Sanctuary? That would seem instinctively to be the place for the Kohen Gadol to go to pray to Hashem and plead for His mercy and compassion. This would be just as the simple man seeks to pray at the Kosel, the singular place where the Divine Presence can be found.
R’ Nissim Yagen cites Rashi, who notes that when there is a revelation of the Divine Presence one must be careful not to become apathetic to the experience. In order to preserve the awe-inspiring energy of the Kodesh HaKadashim and to prevent it from becoming a mundane encounter, the opportunity for the Kohen Gadol to enter the Sanctuary is reserved exclusively for Yom Kippur. Although the Kohen Gadol is not just an ordinary human being, nevertheless it is a given that man tends to lose his sensitivity to the uniqueness of an experience when it becomes a commonplace happening.
In Tehillim (27:4), Dovid HaMelech says, “One thing I asked of Hashem, that I shall seek: To dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life … and to visit in His Sanctuary.”
Our Sages ask: Why did Dovid emphasize that he had only one request? Hashem is Omnipotent and can fulfill any number of requests; there was no reason to limit his request. Indeed, why didn’t Dovid make any additional requests? As the leader of the Jewish nation, surely his people had many spiritual and material needs. Furthermore, the pasuk begins in the past tense, “I asked of Hashem” and concludes in the future tense, “I shall seek ….” One would think that the request should be addressed either in the present or the future. Finally, Dovid requests to sit in the House of Hashem continuously, without interruption, and then requests “to visit,” suggesting he is like a tourist visiting popular sites and then returning home.
It is noted that in the blessings after the reading of the Haftorah, Hashem promises that “no stranger shall sit nor others continue to inherit his [Dovid’s] honor … his lamp will not be extinguished forever and ever.” Nothing was banal or routine for Dovid HaMelech, and in his prayers, he revealed that he wanted nothing more than the privilege of sitting in the House of Hashem all his life. There was no need to ask for anything else, because the fulfillment of this one request would include all physical and spiritual wants and needs. Dovid HaMelech understood the ultimate good and purpose of life, as it is expressed in Mesilas Yesharim: “Man was created for the sole purpose of reveling in the Eternal and delighting in the splendor of the Divine Presence ….”
Most often people change their requests, depending on the circumstances and challenges in their life. Yet, Dovid HaMelech, throughout all his difficulties and at various stages of his life, consistently had only one request: “To sit in the House of Hashem all the days of my life.” He wanted to continue learning, praying, doing mitzvos, doing chesed, and being involved in every spiritual pursuit. Yet, he was able to perceive the precariousness of routine and habitual activity that could tarnish the awesomeness, inspiration, and majesty of a special moment. He therefore concluded his request by asking to be like a visitor who appreciates the uniqueness of the moment he is experiencing and utilizes it to the maximum, lest it fade and depart.
Even in personal relationships, there is a tendency to take members of our own family – such as our children and spouses – for granted, which can, unfortunately, cause our appreciation and pleasure in their company to be diminished.
HaGaon R’ Simcha Wasserman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Elchanan and renowned Torah personality, used to stay at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Eisner in Flatbush when he would come to New York.
I once had the privilege to spend time in his company during one of these visits. As I took leave of him in the hallway of Dr. Eisner’s home, his rebbetzin was coming up the steps. R’ Simcha began to smile broadly, and Dr. Eisner commented, “R’ Simcha, I am happy that you are enjoying your time here.” R’ Simcha replied, “Actually, it is when I see the rebbetzin that it gives me great joy. I am happy to be zoche to such a rebbetzin.”
Years later, both the rosh yeshiva and the rebbetzin took critically ill while in New York. One day when the rebbetzin was having a better day she asked the hospital staff if someone could wheel her to the rosh yeshiva’s room. “I know if he sees me,” she said, “it will give him great happiness, and perhaps it will aid in his recovery.”
To their last days, R’ Simcha Wasserman and his rebbetzin cherished the special relationship of their marriage, and their comportment with each other was an exemplar of shalom bayis to all.