The Holy Fool

By: Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui


The bible commands us to build a sanctuary, so “I will dwell in them.” It doesn’t say, so I will dwell in it, but I will dwell in them. From here, we learn what our sages tell us, that everyone has the potential of having G-d dwell in them, if they make a sanctuary out of their lives.

In the same way that G-d dwelt in the sanctuary made of physical vessels transformed to His service, is the same way with each person. By dedicating our every day, mundane living for a spiritual G-dly purpose, we make our lives a vehicle for the presence of G-d in our lives, and where there is G-d, there are blessings and miracles.

One of the major elements in building the tabernacle where the beams, made of acacia wood. In Hebrew, the word for acacia wood, is related to “foolishness”. In other words, it was out of foolishness that the walls of the sanctuary where formed.

The middle road – which Maimonides tells us, is the one we should travel on for the most part, and for most people, is the one that is dictated by logic and rational thinking. Foolishness, is a turn away from wisdom and rational logic, and there can be two sorts. A plunge below logic where a person acts in a way that lacks proper logic – negative foolishness, or a turn exceedingly greater and superior to accepted logic – Holy foolishness.

The Talmud tells a story of a great sage who would juggle at weddings to add joy to the groom and bride. Not everyone was happy with what they saw, as a minimizing of the respect, due to people in scholarly positions. When this Rabbi passed away, there was a pillar of fire that separated him from the rest of the people. The sages attributed this disconnection and division from the rest of the people “because of his foolishness” in separating himself from the crowd for the good, when entertaining at weddings.

Holy foolishness is when a person breaks from the regular accepted ways and spiritually elevates himself in a way that doesn’t necessarily follow a line of logic. He doesn’t serve G-d limited to the ways that are only influenced by logic, but he goes further in his zeal, commitment and dedication.

If there was no such thing as negative foolishness, we would always be instructed to focus on the middle of the road. However, because every once in a while a person may stumble into doing negative foolish acts, we must find a remedy to this. Maimonides suggests, that a person whose pendulum has swung to the negative, must now take the opposite extreme in the positive direction.

The walls of the sanctuary in every person’s life is made of people who stumbled, but realize that through Holy foolishness, one can not only redeem themselves, furthermore, they become the dwelling place for G-dliness.

There is an expression, “that in the place where people who rehabilitated their lives stand, even people who were righteous their entire lives cannot stand there.” By going the extra mile in being kind and giving even when sometimes it defies logic, there is where G-d is invited to dwell.


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