Adina Ellis
Adina EllisMatan

The Sara Litton z"l mid-monthly Emunah Essay.

Adina Ellis is a graduate of the Matan Bellows Eshkolot Educators Institute. She has been teaching Tanakh and machshava over the last two decades, initially on college campuses and in Hebrew Schools in the New Jersey area. Since making aliyah in 2005, she has given weekly shiurim in Hebrew and English to women in her community. Adina has taught in the ALIT program and Rosh Chodesh seminars run by the OU Women's Initiative as well as in the mother-daughter "learn and art" program of OU Israel. She is known for her unique ability to facilitate in-depth textual learning along with engaging and relevant discussions. Adina lives with her husband and children in Yad Binyamin.

When you pour a glass of water to drink, what’s more important, the water or the glass? Certainly, the thing that you want is the water, however, the receptacle’s significance should not be diminished. The container is what makes the essential commodity more accessible, providing form and function.

A cup is a house for a drink, as pens can be homes for ink.

A glove is a house for a hand and an envelope, a home for a letter.

A beautiful children’s book, A House is a House for Me, by Mary Ann Hoberman, poetically illustrates this notion that most things are a home for another thing.

The name of the month of Adar, the Baal Shem Tov teaches us, can be understood as stemming from “Alef – Dar,” the first letter of the alphabet representing the beginning of everything, God Himself, and the word “dar”, meaning to reside-

א’ דר, אלופו של עולם דר בעולמו ומשרה שכינתו על בריותיו-

The Master of the world resides in His world, so to speak, and shines His Countenance on all of His creations.

The entire world is a house for God.

So too, I am an entire world (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5) and my body is a vessel, a house for my soul, which is a holy spark of God- חֵלֶק אֱלוֹהַּ מִמַּעַל מַמָּשׁ (Tanya Likutei Amarim 2:1)..

The Malbim explains this beautifully when he says that the “dedication of the house of David” (Psalm 30:1) is an allegory for the human body serving as a house for the true spiritual essence of a person:

הבית המוזכר פה הוא הבית המשלי, הוא הגוף שהוא מעון לנפש

What am I? Am I a body with a soul, like the cup filled with water, or a soul with a body?

The tension between such opposing forces is a great and never-ending dichotomy between the physical and spiritual. The statement that “man can never be happy if he does not nourish his soul as he does his body” (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson) can be stated in a positive form, that to achieve happiness, one must feed his or her body and soul. It’s the harmony between these two contrary notions that creates true simcha, joy, which we aspire to increase during Adar.

There is a reason why the world is filled with magnificent beauty in flowers and foliage, billowy clouds and gorgeous sunsets, glorious mountains and waterfalls, and a vast array of wildlife. Similarly, the detailed design of the Mishkan and later in the Beit Hamikdash, the bells and pomegranates on the hem of the robe of the high priest, the intricate designs on the golden vessels such as the menorah and holy ark, the precious gems of the breastplate; all the splendor of gold, silver, and copper and all the beauty in nature, serve to reflect the greatness of what lies within.

So too, our bodies are beautiful vessels for a holy soul, and sometimes we forget that our physical form is significant and even holy as well, as Rav Kook says:

שכחנו שיש לנו בשר קודש (הרב קוק, גוף בשמונה קבצים קובץ ג, רעג).

With the robustness of being physically fit, the soul can shine more brightly. And particularly in Eretz Yisrael, the physical reality naturally has a higher spiritual dimension and the brawn and might of the body are as sacred as the lofty soul:

בארץ ישראל אפשר להשיג איך שהבשר של הגוף הישראלי הוא קדוש ממש כקדושת הנשמה

(הרב קוק, גוף בשמונה קבצים קובץ ג, שסד)

As we read about the details of the structure and fixtures of the Mishkan and the priestly garments in the Torah portions of the weeks of Adar, it’s the perfect time to remind ourselves that our corporeal shape is similarly a holy sanctuary for God.

ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם (שמות כה:ח) –

And build for me a sanctuary and I will dwell in them. The Kotzker Rebbe is well known for noting the incongruous word in the plural, as it should say God will dwell in it, the sanctuary. Instead, the verse (Shemot 25:8) teaches us that when we sanctify ourselves in body and spirit, we can sense God within.

We continue to pray for our fit and vigorous soldiers in their sacred garments. We know they each shine with unparalleled beauty, fulfilling the vision of Rav Kook with their holy souls and holy bodies in the holy land. May Hashem protect them.

My form is a house for my spirit

My body is a home for my soul

My heart is a home for a prayer

This land is a home for all Jews

Our arms are houses for hugs

Our tears are a home for the song waiting to be sung

And a cup is a house for water.

Matan Women's Institute for Torah Studies has been at the cutting edge of Torah learning for women since it was established in 1988.