Kenneth Cohen

The Synagogue

The attempt of Bilaam to curse the Jewish people, was not successful. All of his curses turned into blessings. The Talmud clarifies this by telling us that the curses did not come true at that time, but they did come true at a later time. He intended for the Divine Presence to leave Israel, and it eventually left Israel. His curse that the land should not produce, and that Jewish kings should not reign, all came true, later on in history.

The only curse that never came true was the one that wished that there would no longer be functioning synagogues, among the Jewish people. Thankfully, the synagogue always played an important role in Jewish life, throughout our history.
Rabbi Berel Wein spoke of our survival during our long and painful exile. When Jews needed to relocate to a new location, their success in their new dwelling, depended on their priorities. If the first thing they did was establish a synagogue as the central point, they would survive, and even flourish. When the priority was the material first, and spirituality later, it did not always end well.

The synagogue continues to play many roles in Jewish life. Aside from being a house of prayer, it is also a house of study. Torah study always needs to be maintained, and the “Shule,” is the place where this is done.

The synagogue also serves as a place of gathering. The community meets there to discuss the needs of that community. And it is also the place where the happy moments in life are celebrated. Bar and Bat Mitzvas take place there, as well as a Brit.

The synagogue gives Jews a sense of belonging and unity. It is clear how important it has been for us throughout history, and why Hashem did not allow Bilaam’s curse to apply to our sacred synagogues.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at
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