A friend of more than thirty years showed up at my front door the other day with loaf of his homemade rye bread. The real deal—lots of cornmeal and tons of caraway seeds on a perfect crust. But it was so much more than a loaf of bread. It was an apology for an abrupt-bordering-on-angry-email that he later realized should have been a phone call and a real conversation between old friends. I assured him I would never allow an email to cancel three decades of friendship, hugged him at the front door and said, “I love you.” The world seemed a better place in that sublime moment of reconciliation. And it seemed even better the next morning toasted with butter.
Not two days later I was the one apologizing to a friend whose email I had rushed to respond to, replying with the wrong link and creating the impression that I did not really care what he had to say in the first place. When I called him to apologize for my haste and carelessness he was gracious with a big “Fuggeddabouddit” The world seemed a better place yet again. The rabbis call each beautiful moment like these a tikkun—a repair.
This week in the Torah there are three such repairs, all connected to our ancestors building the first sanctuary ever constructed by the Jewish people to honor God. The innermost part of that sanctuary was overlaid with gold. Keep in that fact is repeated again in the Torah a few weeks from now just after the people lose their faith in God and regress into paganism and idolatry by worshipping a golden calf. Disgusted by their backsliding, Moses smashed the tablets he had just received from God to bits at the foot of Mount Sinai. One week gold is used to profane, the next week to sanctify--a tikkun.
The second tikkun comes in the form of two angelic, winged cherubim fashioned from hammered gold to adorn the entrance of that glorious sanctuary. During their desert journey, God speaks to the Jewish people “from between the two cherubim.” Earlier in the Torah God banished Adam and Eve from Eden for their sins, placing two cherubim with flaming swords to guard the entrance. Those cherubim were meant to keep people out, this week they welcome everyone in beneath their sheltering wings to hear the word of God--a tikkun.
Finally, we learn from the sages of the Talmud who ask what happened to all those broken bits and pieces from that first set of tablets smashed in anger by Moses. They surmise that the people gathered up those shattered pieces, placed them alongside the second set of whole tablets, and carried both together lovingly as they journeyed through the desert toward the Promised Land. The broken and the whole became as one—a tikkun.
We all feel a little broken sometimes. Life is like that in friendships and families, cities and nations, politics and pandemics—we act out of anxious anger, we sin, we wound, we lose each other—and then, a simple moment of humility, a loaf of rye, a call, a hug, an “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you,” sets things right—a tikkun; making the world a better place and each of us, better, more humane human beings.