A Thought for the Week
When Yerushalayim was destroyed and we
once again had to take up the wanderer's staff, wherever we went we never
forfeited our spiritual centers. As soon as we were able to rest our feet we
built a synagogue. That Shul became a mikdash m'at. The whole life of the
Jew, from birth to the very end, became bound up with the synagogue. It was
there that the Jew sought and found refuge and solace from his or her day to
In the Mishkan there was only one kind of wood; shitim or acacia wood. The Ark was built out of acacia, the table for the showbread was built out of acacia and the structure of the tent itself was built from "standing poles of acacia'. We were in a desert; where did we get all of this acacia lumber? We know there was a miraculous well in the desert and that food was sent down to us from the heavens, but we are not told of a Home Depot that followed us out of Egypt! Rashi gives the answer. Generations earlier, when Yaakov moved to Egypt he mysteriously planted acacia trees in Goshen. He instructed his children to nurture the trees and let them grow very large. He told his children that a time would come that they would leave Egypt, but before they leave they should cut these enormous trees down and take the wood with them into the desert. Hundreds of years were invested into this acacia wood!
There could have been just one more
miracle. The Jews could have found an acacia oasis in the desert. But if we
would have just stumbled upon an acacia forest in the desert the timber
would have been missing a major ingredient. It would have been missing the
heart and prayers of our father Yaakov and his children for generation. It
would have been missing the nurturing of thousands of Jews who may have
given from their drinking water to care for their grandfather's garden. Just
any acacia wood wouldn't do. This wood had to bring the Shechina into the
camp and it therefore required the heart and soul of the Jewish people.
As for us, we too can usher the Shechina into our lives, into our homes and into our Synagogues. Not just by belonging, not just by attending or affiliating, but by committing our heart and soul. When we give up little things that are so important to us, when we walk in the snow to Shul, and when we include the place of Hashem in our schedules and even in our prayers, we nurture our surroundings. We can achieve the presence of the Shechina.
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Rabbi Haber is the OU's National Director of Jewish Education and the spiritual leader of the OU's Pardes Program
Comments and questions are very welcome
"A tree of life for those who embrace it"