Beit Midrash

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Good Tents


Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

"How good are your tents, Ya’akov, your dwelling places, Israel!" (Bamidbar 24:5). This impassioned call shows a rush of emotion from one of the most devilish people who ever stood up against Israel – Bilam, the "prophet of the nations." Even he was startled by the lofty beauty that enveloped the tents of Israel and their dwelling places. Since then, many generations of anti-Semites have been dumb-struck by the beauty of the Jewish home over the generations. They are startled when they meet up with the purity and modesty that surrounds the Jewish family. They see the Jewish girl, the symbol of purity, who is ready to give her life so as not to compromise her purity and her dedication to values. It is just a short time ago that we heard the report of the tremendous heroic tragedy of the 93 Daughters of Israel who decided to die as martyrs rather than be defiled by lowly, filthy hands. [This refers to a famous account from the Holocaust, which was first publicized in New York in 1943]. Even this enemy sees the unbreakable connection between the two holy institutions: tents [apparently referring to shuls and other Jewish holy places] and dwellings [apparently referring to simple houses].
As is common for matters of great value that work in tandem, the two institutions have a symbiotic relationship in such a manner that one has trouble determining which is the main element and which is the minor one. Here too, it is hard to know which created which and which keeps the other one going. We would conclude with the following statement: both of them keep each other going and both of them give life to the other.
Only one who does not make material pleasures the core of his life and knows how to search for the grandeur of simplicity in his daily life will know how to preserve the proper awe for the holiness of the sanctum of Hashem. He knows when his feet tread on a holy location and that he should elevate himself for the special moments of pure prayers of the heart and service of the heart, where both the heart and the flesh rejoice.
On the other hand, holy places where Jews visit at the most precious moments in their lives have an influence and provide strength, belief, reliance, tranquility, and iron strength to bear the burdens. This is our wellspring.
If the tents of Israel are as beautiful as "cedars rooted near water" and "gardens by the riverside" (Bamidbar 24:6), then the river represents holy places like this [it is not known where Rav Yisraeli was speaking]; this is the wellspring of the water of life.
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