A man observed his Jewish acquaintance reading a Nazi newspaper on a regular basis.
“Why don’t you read the Jewish paper?” he asked him, incredulous.
“The Jewish newspapers?!” the Jew exclaimed, “all they write about is how persecuted our nation is…how much we suffer! Reading the Nazi paper actually makes me feel good about who I am; we control the government, we’re influential in society…why, we’re practically taking over the entire world! Now that’s what I want to hear about.”
There’s an old adage that goes “happiness lies in our own backyard, but it’s probably well hidden by crabgrass.” We’ve all been down that road before, and often it takes an outsider to point out to us the incredible things we possess. However, we don’t necessarily have to wait for that to happen; we can get there on our own.
Do you remember the first time you drove a car by yourself? That thrill, that confidence, that freedom? There’s a magic to the first time we do something because we are able to recognize the specialty in it. Imagine if you could relive the “firsts” of all your big and little experiences in life–how special each and every moment would be!
I remember visiting the Western Wall–the Kotel–for the very first time. Being in front of the last remaining structure from the times of the Holy Temple is an indescribable experience; I’ve been back to visit on rare occasions, and each time, I stand in awe. But I always wonder about the people who actually live in Jerusalem and pray at the Kotel all year round–how do they feel when they approach this sacred wall?
I thought about this while perusing this week’s Torah portion, which discusses the various activities that were carried out in the Holy Temple. Indeed, in those days, people traveled from far and wide to witness the special rituals and services that were performed there. What’s more, they witnessed incredible miracles on a daily basis! Did they become accustomed to it? Or were they able to remain sensitized to the Divine?
I ask myself this question too, for although we don’t have our Holy Temple standing in Jerusalem today, every shul, every synagogue, is regarded as a mini Temple.
Perhaps the first time we enter a shul, we truly sense the holiness. But then we get used to it, and with time it seems to lose that initial sanctity…because we’ve lost sensitivity. Granted, it’s hard to appreciate the picture when you’re inside the frame, but let’s not become indifferent to the inspiration that is so accessible to us.
So next time you enter a shul, think about the fact that you’re standing in a mini Temple, a place that houses the holy Torah scrolls, a place where G-d is present.