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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 10 Apr 2020 05:41 PM and ends Sat 11 Apr 2020 06:40 PM

The Holiness of the Bet Knesset

כ"ט אדר א' ה' אלפים תשס"ח

I speak to you about the importance of the Shule. You should know that G-d always makes a place for Jews, whether it is in Australia, Canada, South Africa, Switzer-land, Mexico, all over the world where there are Jews, I will always be for them a small sanctuary"- in the land from where they come. No matter what happens to a person, in his personal life, communal life, Twin Towers, Hamas, Intifada, whatever terrible things happen to a person, a person can never lose that hope, that connection with Hashem because of the Bet Midrash and the Bet Haknesset are the place of connection. There will always be that place that you could make a connection. The Gemara Megilah states that “I have built you a small sanctuary, the batei Knesset, the shuls”. Sometimes it can be simply a storefront, or a magnificent edifice but a person has to know that he can always make that connection to Hashem. The shul is a place of communication, not only a communication to Hashem but to each other.

The height of a shul: I want to share with you two laws that are written in the Shulchan Aruch about a shul that will give us a certain perspective of what our approach to a Bet Haknesset should be. The first halachah is very interesting, ( Orach Chayim) – you are not supposed to build a shul except for the highest place in the city. A shul is supposed to be, according to the letter of the law, the tallest place in town, the most prominent building in town. As a matter of fact, if somebody has a house whose roof is higher than the shul, there are those so say you should force that person to lower the roof. Their house can not be more prominent than the Bet Haknesset. The shul, where you make a connection to Hashem and to other fellow Jews, must be the most prominent place. No roof can be higher than that.

Kissing children in a shul: A second perspective is – you are not allowed to kiss your cute little children in a shul and if you have grandchildren, and I don’t know how many of you are zoche to have grandchildren, but you know that your grandchildren are the cutest things G-d created since the creation of the world. They come to shul, you haven’t seen them all week, you want to kiss them, they look adorable but the shul is not the place to kiss little children – not in the sanctuary of the shul.

That is because, to establish in the heart of the child and in the heart of the zeide, the bubbe, the father or the mother, that there is no love that we have that is greater than the love that we have to have for Hashem. Therefore in a shul you kiss the Sefer Torah, you kiss the Chumash, you kiss the tzitzit, you kiss the siddur, anything that is a conduit to Hakadosh Baruch hu, but to kiss a child – even though we want to kiss the child and we want to embrace that lovely child – we have to refrain from doing that because in a shul is where we show the love to Hashem.

I want to tell you a number of stories that will bring out what a connection to a shul is all about. Connection to Hashem in all kinds of weather:

I have a brother-in-law who lives in Chicago. Those of you who are familiar with America will know that it is the Windy City. It is a place that is very, very cold even in the beginning of winter, which is in November. I was there once and it was -12 degrees below zero, with the wind-chill factor. It was absolutely freezing. My brother-in-law is a microbi-ologist, and a big Talmid chacham. One night he gets a knock on the door. It is a Rosh Yeshivah from Eretz Yisrael, who is coming to collect money for his institution in Israel. So my brother-in-law brings him in, gives him some coffee and cake and is talking to him. He says, “How could you go out on a night like this? It is so cold. It is so freezing.” And he says, “I’ll tell you the truth, I once heard a very nice chasidishe vort. The pasuk says in tehillim – beveit Elo-kim, nehalech berogesh - that you should go with excitement. Regesh means excitement. You should go with enthusiasm.” So he said, “I once heard a chasidishe Rebbe say that you have to do it with excitement –BeRaGeSH stands for Barad, Ruach, Geshem and SHeleg. Barad is hail. Ruach is wind. Geshem is rain and SHeleg is snow and therefore, in any type of weather, you go out to shul.”

If you are going out to collect for a shul or a Bet Midrash, you go out in all kinds of weather, even in the windy city, even 12 degrees below zero. I love when people tell me stories. The truth is 98 out of 100 stories, I can’t use, but I am a nice guy, I listen to everybody because its worth listening to a 100 stories just to get those two that are absolutely precious. So everybody that I know very well, they always call me with stories. I don’t know if you ever have snow here in Australia but of one thing I am sure – that you have cold, you have hot and you have all kinds of weather. There’s no excuse. If you want to make a connection to Hashem, that is where you come.

I want to tell you one of the greatest stories that I have ever heard. As a matter of fact, it is not even printed yet. Im Yirzeh Hashem, I am printing another Maggid book and I am considering making this the first story in the book. It is absolutely in-credible. I’ll show you what it means con-nection to a shul. There is a yid in Eretz Yisrael. His name is Reb Yossef Gutfarb - a tzadik, an erlicher yid. He hasn’t missed a minyan in decades. Whenever he travels all over the world, he is always finding a minyan. He knows the schedule wherever he goes in advance. This happened a year and a half ago. The guy comes home from a chaseneh at 3 o’clock in the morning and he is about to go to sleep when he realises that he didn’t daven ma’ariv. And he didn’t daven in a minyan. Where in the world will he get a minyan 3 o’clock in the morning? So again, those of you who know New York, there is a certain place - Landau’s on East 7th Street and Shomer Shabbes in Boro Park. So in Yerushalayim you also have a place like that. It is called Zichron Moshe and you can go there day and night until they start vasikin in the morning. All day there are minyanim. So this guy goes at 3 o’clock in the morning, He comes to Zichron Moshe. He walks in and there is only one guy there. He says “Excuse me. Did you daven Ma’ariv yet?” He says “no”. He says “Do you think you will have a minyan?” “I’ll tell you the truth it is 3.15 am. In an hour and a half they are going to start davening shacharis. I think it’s too late. I don’t know – I don’t think we will have a Minyan”. This guy thinks for a second and this is what he does. He calls an Israeli cab company. He says “send me 8 taxis with Israeli drivers”. So the guy says “3 o’clock in the morning. Who has got 8 taxis?” So he says “How many you got?” “5” “Send me 5 taxis”. He calls another Israeli cab company “Send me 3 taxis – Israeli drivers only.” So ten minutes later he got it. 8 cab drivers outside Zichron Moshe.

Everyone wants to know “Where’s the chasene? Where’s the barmitzvah? What’s going on here?” He says “Rabboisai, start your meters. Everyone come into the shul.” Eve-rybody starts their meters and come into Eve-rybody starts their meters and come into the shul. He says “Rabboisai, I want you to know decades have gone by and I haven’t missed a Minyan. I’ll pay anything. It makes no difference to me. I’ve got to daven with a minyan.” So some of the Israelis know how to daven.

Everybody can read Hebrew. They are Israelis but some guys didn’t know what Ma’ariv is. So he gets everybody together, they davven Ma’ariv and it takes 25 minutes. He finishes. He goes over to the first guy who came and he says to him “Check your meter. How much does it cost?” He says “Listen sir, I have been davening all my life. I don’t think ever in my life I have davened in such a holy Minyan. You are ready to pay 8 cabdrivers. I wouldn’t take a penny from you.”

He goes to a second Israeli – the guy who had a cardboard yarmulke. He says to him “Sir, how much do I owe you?” He says “I haven’t davened in years. Tonight you allowed me to daven in this minyan. I should pay you! You owe me nothing”. Not one of the eight cab drivers took a penny from this guy. That’s a connection! That’s a connection bein Adam le chavero. That happens in a shul. That’s a connection that man makes with Hashem because he realises that he prepared to pay anything just so that he is able to have a Minyan.

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