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THE SMALLEST NATION

Roy Neuberger - Apr. 13, 2018


This week’s Torah Portion describes the inauguration of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.

 

The essence of our mission is unity with the King of the Universe. No other nation possesses this greatness. The Mishkan was where this encounter took place, thus the term “Ohel Moed,” which is translated as “Tent of Meeting.” The Torah says, “They took what Moshe had commanded to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and the entire assembly approached and stood before Hashem. Moshe said: This is the thing that Hashem has commanded you to do; then the glory of Hashem will appear to you.” (Leviticus 9:5-6)

 

This holiness that resided in the Mishkan was later transferred to the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim. “King David went and he brought up the Ark of G-d … to the City of Dovid with gladness. Whenever the bearers of the Ark of Hashem walked six paces, he slaughtered an ox and a fatted ox. Dovid danced with all his strength before Hashem and Dovid was girdled in a linen tunic. Dovid and the entire House of Israel brought up the Ark of Hashem with loud joyous sound and the sound of the shofar….” (II Samuel 6:12 -15; Haftaras Shemini)

 

This Place is called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7)

 

“Also a gentile who is not of Your people Israel, but will come from a distant land … and will come and pray toward this Temple … May You hear [them] from Heaven … so that all the peoples of the world may know Your Name, to fear You … and to know that Your Name is proclaimed upon this Temple ….” (I Kings 8:41ff)

 

The nations hear of our greatness and desire to attach themselves to us. In my book, From Central Park to Sinai, I recount an amazing incident in which I was driving in Manhattan during rush hour. I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to say the mincha, the Afternoon Prayer. I had only a few minutes until sunset. I pulled into one of those “Don’t even think of stopping here!” zones, got out of my car and started saying “Ashrei,” the beginning of the prayer. Suddenly I heard a loud voice: “What do you think you’re doing! Get that car out of here.” I turned around and said, in a quiet tone, “Officer, I actually just need a few minutes to pray before sunset.” Silence. He looked at me. “Pray! Why didn’t you tell me! You take as long as you want! And don’t forget … pray for me!”

 

The nations of the world desire our prayer. In their heart of hearts they too yearn for the “house of prayer for all the peoples.” They too know there is no survival without us and our unity with the Lord of the Universe. They too know that Hashem promised our Father Abraham that “all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Genesis 12:3)

 

Several weeks ago, before boarding a plane to the Holy Land, I noticed a group of very large men about to board our plane. They looked quite unlike the typical El Al passenger. Guess what? I wound up sitting across the aisle from two of these gentlemen!

 

Guess what! We talked for most of the flight.

 

This was a group of National Football League players, and they were really big! Someone had paid for an entourage to visit Israel. My wife and I prepared our new friends for the Holy Land as well as we could. They were extremely respectful. I also believe that they were grateful to meet Jews who were so friendly to them and whose obvious priority was the fulfillment of a Biblical lifestyle, the effect of which would be to bring those blessings Hashem promised to our Father Abraham down to this planet.

 

My wife took a picture of me standing between my two giant friends. I was reminded of the Biblical spies, who said, “There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of the giant from among the Nephilim; we were like grasshoppers in our eyes and so we were in their eyes.” (Numbers 13:33)

 

But we are not grasshoppers!

 

No! We are descendants of kings and prophets, giants of Torah, masters of spiritual greatness. We are the smallest of the nations and the greatest of the nations. We are not measured physically. For you are a holy people to Hashem, your G-d [Who] … has chosen you to be for Him a treasured people above all the peoples on the face of the earth. Not because you are more numerous than all the peoples did Hashem desire you and choose you, for you are the fewest of all the peoples. Rather, because of Hashem’s love for you and because He observes the oath that He swore to your forefathers did He take you out with a strong hand and redeem you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)

 

The Mishkan was erected in the desert. Within it the Presence of the King of All Kings came to meet with the Holy Nation of Israel, bringing blessings to this world. The holiness of the Mishkan was transferred to the Temple, whose location lies within a small city in the midst of a small nation. To this Place are drawn all those who seek blessing. “A Baraisa was taught in the yeshiva of Rabbi Yishmael: Blessing is not found except in something at which the eye cannot gaze, as it is said: Hashem shall command the blessing upon you in your hidden storage places…. For blessing is not found in something that has been weighed, nor in something that has been measured, nor in something that has been counted. It is found only in something that is hidden from the eye.” (Taanis 8b)

 

Soon the Shechina, the Presence of G-d, will return in its glory! “V’sechezena ainainu … May our eyes behold Your return to Tzion in compassion!” May we see it soon in our days!

 

PHOTO CAPTION

Renaldo Wynn (left) and Michael Pierce (right)

aboard El Al Flight 008. The author is between them.


 

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