I was recently talking to someone who has quite a morbid job: performing taharahs (the ritual halachic cleansing of a Jewish body prior to burial). Together with a network of 20 or so colleagues, he performs taharahs on hundreds of bodies a year, serving a wide geographic area.

He’s been doing this for over 40 years.

He told me an interesting thing. “I don’t pray for Moshiach to come anymore. Instead, I ask for the resurrection of the dead to happen now! Whatever was supposed to happen in between the arrival of Moshiach and the resurrection must have already happened, and I’m ready to stand at the cemetery gates and greet all those people on their way back!”

A powerful sentiment from someone who unfortunately faces death every day.

It got me thinking. I know so many people—myself among them—who, to different degrees of conviction, regularly declare their wishes for “Moshiach now!” Motivations for such declarations vary, but I’ve never heard it quite like I did from this particular gentleman.

Spending so much time on the dark side makes one want the bright side that much more

More importantly, the force of his sincerity hit me. This man really meant what he said! And that makes a lot of sense. After all, his firsthand, personal experience brings him face to face with death far more often than anyone should ever have to. Spending so much time on the dark side makes one want the bright side that much more.

Brotherly Cherubim

That hanging out on the dark side can serve as a powerhouse for light is a truth many of us fail to properly appreciate. Luckily, the Torah reminds us of this truth in many different ways.

As we shall see, one example lies between the wings of two baby-faced figurines in the Temple—the cherubim described in our parshah. “The cherubim shall have their wings spread upwards, shielding the ark cover with their wings, with their faces each one to his brother,”1 the verse tells us.

What is the significance of their wings spreading upwards? And what are we to make of the description as two brothers facing one another?

A relevant verse in arguably one of the most poetic books of the Bible is our ticket to discovery. “O, that you were like my brother, who sucked my mother's breasts! I would find you outside, I would kiss you, and they would not despise me,”2 says King Solomon in Songs of Songs. Once again, we see the reference to brothers. What is this pining for brotherly love all about? And how does it connect back to the cherubs?

Pining for Steady Love

In a wonderful essay,3 Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi dissects each part of this succulent verse, using Kabbalah to explain how it speaks of our relationship with G‑d.

You see, as Jews, the very baseline of our entire religion is about creating and cultivating this relationship. Instead of a laundry list of dos and don’ts, the entire body of Jewish practice is for us to move from simple people minding our own business into people who have a relationship with the Master of the Universe.

Now, as with all relationships, there are gradations: good days and bad days, ups and downs. Times of intense passion and open displays of romance, and other times of grind and grit, boredom and dreariness.

The request, “O, that you were like a brother to me!” is our fervent wish to G‑d that our relationship with Him be as natural, comfortable, and steady as that of siblings. A desperate plea that despite the “off” times, those moments, days, or even years when we feel distant and spiritually numb, we should still be like siblings with G‑d.

In Temple times, such requests were not necessary. There, in that magnificent edifice in Jerusalem, the Jewish people enjoyed an unprecedented level of comfort with G‑d. The Temple stood as testimony to G‑d’s love for us, a place where G‑dliness rolled around for all to see like confetti littering the floor at a birthday party.

Thus, the baby-faced cherubs looked lovingly at each other with the natural and easy love of two siblings. Their wings extended upwards, signaling the emotional comfort of two parties who love one another and can soar together ever higher.

Such was the spiritual euphoria of Temple times.

“Find Him Outside”

Alas, the Temple was ransacked, and the spiritual honeymoon along with it. And from then on, our relationship with G‑d has been subjected to trying times, indeed. There have been great highs and terrible lows.

So we beg, “O, that you were a brother to me!” We wish to restore that level of natural, easy love, but unfortunately, it’s just not always there.

Where, then, do we find it?

“I would find you outside, I would kiss you,” says the Singer of Songs.

Outside. That’s where you can kiss G‑d.

Here we are privy to one of the great gifts of Chassidic teachings: the notion that “outside” is specifically where you will find that relationship with G‑d.

Too many make the grievous mistake that to enjoy a passionate relationship with G‑d, to win the spiritual game, they must be very… well, spiritual. He or she who is privileged to pray for hours, to learn for even longer, and to be a person of the cloth—they are the one! They are really in love with G‑d. They are G‑d’s sibling, the veritable cherub whose wings are touching the face of G‑d Himself.

Nonsense.

It is actually those who are outside who win this game. You, whose prized possession is a mortgage and a bone-crushing job, you are the one who is kissing G‑d.

Yes, on an average day, your mind is held hostage by a million worries, ranging from health, to family, to finances, to the environment, and back around to politics. And a whole lot more than that. It may feel that your mind and your heart are not the most intuitive places for a G‑dly kiss, as it were.

It is actually those who are outside who win this game. You, whose prized possession is a mortgage and a bone-crushing job, you are the one who is kissing G‑d

Yet, the song states, “I would find you outside, I would kiss you.” When in the middle of the day, you slowly pass your hand across your forehead and clear your head for just a moment to pray—you have not only stretched your wings upwards; you have leapt up to face G‑d and have given Him a huge kiss. And vice versa.

After all, those pious ones swaying and praying for years don’t really know what it means to struggle with religion, to be faced with temptation, and to stare down corruption and licentiousness. They’re ensconced in their cocoon of holiness, and as such, their prayers lack the passion and devotion that can only come from one who has been to the dark side and back.

But you? You’ve been there and back. In fact, you were just there this morning in the office. Or at the park. Or online when you checked Facebook or looked at yet another bill you couldn’t pay. And now you’re here, donning your tallit or swaying with your siddur, ready for a moment with your true love: G‑d.

You have found Him outside.

And those who find Him outside are the ones who kiss Him.