There’s a small poem1 by Yehudah HaLevi that can be found in the Mahzor on page 231 or in Siddur Lev Shalem on page 359 that reads,
1 יָהּ, אָנָה אֶמְצָאֶךָּ? מְקוֹמְךָ נַעֲלָה וְנֶעְלָם!
וְאָנָה לֹא אֶמְצָאֶךָּ? כְּבוֹדְךָ מָלֵא עוֹלָם!
“Yah ana emtza’acha m’kom’cha na’aleh v’ne’lam? V’ana lo emtza’acha? Kevod’cha maleh olam!” It means “God, where will I find You? Your place is high and hidden. But, where would I not find you? Your glory fills the world.” The poem plays on an apparent contradiction found within the Kedusha.
2 קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת מְלֹא כָל הָאָֽרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ:
“Holy Holy Holy is Hashem Tzeva’ot – His Glory fills the whole Earth”2 and “Blessed is the glory of HaShem from His Place.”3
3 בָּרוּךְ כְּבוֹד־יְהֹוָה מִמְּ֒קוֹמוֹ:
Where exactly does God live? Is God in Heaven somewhere entirely distant and grand? Is God in a place that can only be described as HaMakom (The Place)? Or is God everywhere – all around us, across the globe and the cosmos, constantly nearby at all times?
Starting 5 weeks ago in Elul we began adding Psalm 27 to our daily prayers, and in it we recite: “One thing I ask of You, Hashem. To dwell in Your house all the days of my life.”4 And throughout the year, when we recite Ashrei we claim that those who ‘dwell in God’s house’ are joyous.
4 אַחַ֤ת ׀ שָׁאַ֣לְתִּי מֵֽאֵת־יְהֹוָה֮ אוֹתָ֢הּ אֲבַ֫קֵּ֥שׁ שִׁבְתִּ֣י בְּבֵית־יְ֭הֹוָה כׇּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיַּ֑י
But where is G-d’s house? High and hidden? Or filling the whole world? Is God transcendent, ineffable, and entirely impossible to grasp? Or is G-d’s presence iminent, always close to those who call out to G-d in truth? The answer is both. G-d is everywhere, visible in the manifold works of creation we see anytime we truly open our eyes. G-d is felt everywhere, audible in the praises of all that breathes a breath of life. G-d is all around us, we are reflections of His divine image.
G-d is where we feel safe. G-d is also present, witnessing our discomfort serving as our help and strength in times of distress. G-d is at the synagogue, and G-d is at home. G-d is up in the highest Heavens, and G-d’s glory fills the Earth. G-d is not only found on the lofty throne of Judgment making decrees on Yom Kippur. G-d is found outside, in a flimsy and temporary sukkah we build to remind ourselves that it is by G-d’s grace alone that we survive. As we transition from the spiritual height of Yom Kippur to Sukkot – known as the Season of our Joy, let’s remind ourselves: joyous are those who dwell in G-d’s house, they praise God forever. Selah5.
5אַ֭שְׁרֵי יוֹשְׁבֵ֣י בֵיתֶ֑ךָ ע֝֗וֹד יְֽהַלְל֥וּךָ סֶּֽלָה׃
And as we leave our houses to dwell in Sukkot, let’s embrace the opportunity to tune into the natural, physical, beautiful world filled with
G-d’s presence. Let’s invite that presence into our sukkot, and into our lives and joyfully reside in G-d’s house. Chag Sameach!