On my first visit to Montana, as a seventeen year old American, I got into a conversation with Tinyman (Don) Yellowkidney, son of Buster Yellowkidney, Wartime Chief of the Blackfeet Tribe. Tinyman was trying to impress upon me the privilege of my being Jewish, a privilege I was then attempting to downplay. He mentioned the privilege that, as a Jew, anywhere I go in the world I will find a shul to daven in, a Jewish safe-haven. The nusach, the minhagim, the approach to Torah and Yiddishkeit may differ slightly, but essentials are the same. He told me that as a Jew, I have the security of knowing that, the world over, I can find a shul, and within a shul, I can find my people and a home away from home.
For a Yid, a shul is a place to share simchas and sorrows; crying on Tisha B’av and laughter on Purim. Ten years ago I had the privilege of making frequent business trips to Chicago. Several shuls in Chicago have done a wonderful job of creating a community atmosphere where congregants benefit from a home-away-from-home. Yidden learn together, daven Shacharis, morning prayers together, learn a bit more after Shacharis, and then eat breakfast together. They’re mechazik, they strengthen, each other as brothers and friends, in preparation for the workday ahead.
We need to view our shuls and Battei Medrash, as homes away from home. Following the example of the heads of the Shvatim, the tribal leaders, we need to give to and furnish our shuls (each according to his or her’s financial ability) with the same affection, pride, and attention to detail as we give to the homes we sleep in at night. When Jews come together, to support each other, pray together, eat together, laugh together, cry together, and of course, learn together, community is built, and not just any community, but, Knesses Yisroel, the Community of Yisroel, the Community of God.
Years ago, while living in North Miami Beach, the Nickelsburger Rebbe, shilta, came to visit the community for Shabbos. The Rebbe addressed the tzibur Thursday evening. He said something surprising; that just as important as the shmooze, the address about to be delivered, is the cholent and kugel that will be eaten after the shmooze. We all laughed. The Rebbe said that it is nothing to laugh about. He told us that Hashem has great satisfaction when Jews eat together and enjoy each other’s company. When a father sees his children spending quality time together, eating together, and enjoying each others company it brings joy to the father. When Hashem sees us coming to shul to inspire one another and enjoy being Yidden together it brings Him great satisfaction. More than any other place, it is the shul where Yidden come together. Bearing this in mind, it behooves us to give generously, according to our means and abilities, to the places where we come together with other Jews in prayer, worship, and friendship: our Shuls.
Have a Good Shabbos,