At the end of Shemoneh Esrei, we part from Hashem with the request, “Yehi ratzon milfanecha, Hashem Elokeinu…she’yibaneh Beis Hamikdash bimheira biyameinu – May it be Your will, Hashem, that You rebuild the Temple speedily in our days.”
We long for the Beis Hamikdash because we want Hashem to once again reside in our midst, as per the pasuk, “V’asu li mikdash v’shachanti b’socham – Make for Me a sanctuary that I may dwell amongst you.” Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, however, teaches us that the Temple’s real purpose is to train us to make our minds into sanctuaries so that Hashem always resides in our thoughts.
With this idea, Rav Miller explains the Gemara’s statement, “Kol mi she’yesh lo dei’a k’ilu nivneh Beis Hamikdash b’yamav – Whoever has knowledge, it is as if the Temple is built in his day” (Berachos 33). What’s the connection between personal knowledge and the Holy Temple? The answer is that true knowledge refers to awareness of Hashem, as per the verse, “Hein yiras Hashem hi chachmah – Behold, the awareness of Hashem is wisdom.”
Similarly, another verse teaches, “Reishis chachmah yiras Hashem – The very beginning of wisdom is awareness of Hashem” (the word “yiras” can also mean “seeing” or “being aware of”). A person who is cognizant of Hashem has made himself a veritable Temple where G-d constantly resides.
Another famous Talmudic dictum conveys the same message: “Gedolah misas tzaddikim k’sereifas Beis Elokeinu – Weighty is the death of the righteous, like the burning of the Temple.” A righteous person who lives with Hashem constantly in his thoughts is analogous to the Temple, and thus his death is comparable to the burning of the Beis Hamikdash.
I believe that constantly being aware of Hashem is what constitutes kedushah (holiness). Before we make a bracha, we often say, “asher kidishanu b’mitzvosav – that He sanctifies us with His commandments.” What is the nature of this holiness? Heightened awareness of Hashem. When we do something because G-d commanded us to, we become more aware of Him and, thus, more holy.
We mention this awareness is our very first request in the Shemoneh Esrei: “Atah chonein l’adam da’as – You grant a person true knowledge.” This beracha follows right on the heels of the blessing of holiness because awareness of Hashem and holiness are connected – and central to our lives. As Moshe Rabbeinu himself said, “Ma Hashem Elokecha sho’eil me’imach, ki im l’yirah – What does Hashem ask of you but to see [i.e., be aware of] Him?”
With Hashem’s help, an incredible etymological revelation dawned on me. The word “chayim,” which means life, is an anagram of two words: moach (mind) and Yud–Yud (Hashem’s name). This anagram indicates that having Hashem constantly in our brains is the essence of life. Incidentally, the gematria of “chayim” is 68, the same as the gematria of “chacham” (a wise person). True wisdom consists of being aware of Hashem at all times.
Hashem has given us a body of laws, known as eidos (testimonials), to help us keep Him in our thoughts. Mezuzos confront us upon entering every room reminding us that Hashem is watching us. Tefillin are designed to remind us to keep Him in our hearts and minds. Tzitzis remind us that we are members of Hashem’s hosts, and the yarmulke (which is a corruption of the words “yarei malka – to be aware of the king”) reminds us of the king above us.
When we live with Hashem, not only do we fulfill our purpose in this world (as per the dictum “she’hakol bara lichvodo – everything was created for His honor”), we also ensure that we are properly inhibited from sinning. Furthermore, always thinking of Hashem guarantees us longevity, as Mishlei states, “Yiras Hashem tosif yamim – Awareness of Hashem adds length to one’s days.”
May it be the will of Hashem that, in the merit of keeping Him on our minds, He bless us all with long life, good health, contentment, and everything wonderful.