Out my office window I can see the grounds upon which, up until two weeks ago, former Temple Israel of Swampscott, MA, once stood. Temple Israel was one of the two synagogues that merged together to form what is now, Congregation Shirat Hayam. Temple Israel, indeed, was once a lovely synagogue. So many people have so many wonderful memories which took place inside those four walls. Understandably, it has been very hard for many to let it go, and now, see it as a pile of rubble. Some are sad, others are upset, and a few people I have met are even angry.
As I learned long ago, feelings are never wrong. If someone is feeling something, it is real to them, therefore it is true, regardless of what the facts may or may not dictate. (Gentleman, never, never, ever, tell your spouse that she is wrong for feeling whatever it is she is feeling! Trust me on this one – another conversation for another day).
With that said, it is important to remember this – we Jews have not been in the real estate business for nearly 2000 years. When our Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed we moved out into the world, building little temples wherever we went, but always carrying with us the memory that these were merely place holders for our true temple and our true home. That home was never Swampscott, MA or NYC, or Los Angeles, nor even, strap on your seat belts folks, the other holy land Eretz Florida.
Rather, the Jewish Temple, the Jewish home, the place that has sustained our people for these past two millennia was and continues to be Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel; Yerushalayim, the city of Jerusalem; and Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, which still exists despite the fact that not even rubble remains from that original structure.
The Temple still exists because the Temple was never about bricks and mortar in the first place. In this week’s Torah portion we read,
And let them make me a mikdash (temple ); that I may dwell among them….
The rabbis wisely point out that if, indeed, God were instructing us to build a physical structure the text should have said, “that I may dwell among IT,” when in fact, the text says, “that I may dwell among YOU.” This is because God’s true abode on earth is not in a building, not even the holiest of buildings, the Temple, not even within the holy of holies within that Temple. Rather, God dwelt within “them,” within our ancestors when they united to build the Temple, together. God’s presence was found within our forefathers and foremothers when they joined in unity to create Temple Israel or any synagogue or house of worship wherever it might have once stood.
And God’s dwelling place today is within the congregation, not temple, Shirat Hayam – not the space, not the place, but the people within these four walls. God lives inside any and every congregation, community, or country that is united in goodness, compassion and love. People, not palaces, are holy. Relationships, not real estate, are sacred. Bricks are bricks. Mortar is mortar. However, human relationships are the true Temple – the only temple and the one that has and will continue to withstand the test of time.
The Kotzker Rebbie was once asked where God is, and he replied: “Wherever one lets God in.” Building temples is lovely. Erecting buildings is significant. Constructing homes is important. However, the true work we are here to do, as a people and as people, is for each of us to get into the construction business not of bricks and mortar, but builders of community, relationships and most of all building up one another, constructing open minds and fashioning loving hearts.
This post has been contributed by a third party. The opinions, facts and any media content are presented solely by the author, and JewishBoston assumes no responsibility for them. Want to add your voice to the conversation? Publish your own post here.