In our personal house of prayer, think big –

Posted By on July 29, 2017

Parshat Devarim

Deuteronomy 1:13:22

Shabbat Chazon

One of the proudest moments of my life occurred at a yeshiva summer camp, where I spent five days a week learning Torah and two days a week touring Europe. At 14, I found myself in the ruins of ancient Rome, just across the main road from the Colosseum, a site drenched in Jewish blood.

For me as a homesick American, any sound of a Yankee accent was music to my ears, and so there we were at the foot of the infamous Arch of Titus, when I hear that American droll of a senior couple taking pictures right next to us.

After sparking conversation with my fellow compatriots I soon discovered that these Virginians were also fellow Yids, and so, like a good Chasid, I went running back to the bus to grab my tefillin. There we were, two proud and free Jewish people, wrapping tefillin with pride, under the arch that was built to celebrate our destruction almost 2,000 years earlier.

And thats what Jewish people have been doing for the last 2,000 years. Wherever we find ourselves, and under whatever circumstances, we build. We build Jewish and sacred relationships, moments, experiences and buildings we build a home for Hashem.

The prophet Ezekiel gave us the message from G-d that although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I will be to them as a small sanctuary in the countries where they shall come. And the Talmud in Tractate Megillah (29a) explains this to mean the houses of study and the houses of prayer.

But why then does the verse say to us that I will be to them (a small sanctuary)? Is it G-d or is the houses of study and prayer?

Perhaps the message here is that each and every one of us, not just the buildings within which we gather, are the presence of G-d in our exiles around the world.

These small sanctuaries that the Jewish people have built have been as small as two Jews wrapping tefillin together in Rome or as large as the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem.

The Talmud there in Tractate Megillah then brings another commentary that this verse is referring to the house of our Rebbe. So not only is it broadly the houses of prayer and study across the diaspora, but specifically the collective house of the leader of the Jewish people in exile.

Ive always understood this to somehow give insight to the Talmuds statement that the Moshiach was born on the ninth of Av, the day the Temple was destroyed. This not only tells us that from the moment of its destruction the potential of its rebuilding and the person who would lead that enterprise was born, but that a part of that soul is inside you and me, hoping to break out and bring the redemption. Every one of our own houses of study and prayer is a reflection of the collective house of our Rebbe, which each one of us can be.

When I would spend a Shabbat at the house of the Rebbe in Brooklyn, N.Y., hearing his passionate cry to change the world, I often felt like the immediacy of the Talmuds words were real and possible. With the passage of time, the truth of those words doesnt always ring as clearly through my consciousness.

But on Tisha BAv, when we focus on the destruction of the big sanctuary in Jerusalem, I have the small sanctuary in Brooklyn, in Rome and in Pittsburgh, the house of our Rebbe that awakens inside my own personal house of prayer and study. I need to think big. I need to think fast. And more than thinking, I need to start doing so

Please G-d, see you soon in Jerusalem with the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash.

Wishing you a Shabbat of RebuildingPJC

Rabbi Ely Rosenfeld serves as the director of Chabad Fox Chapel and the Jewish Relief Agency of Pittsburgh. This column is a service of Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.

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In our personal house of prayer, think big -

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