Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shuls Should be As Beautiful On the Inside as They are Outside

Over Shabbos, Parshas Balak, I saw two teachings that I wanted to share.

One was a small part of a piece from the Toldos Yaakov Yosef by Rav Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye in Parshas Balak, 4th column in the first piece on the Parsha. After explaining how "Yaakov" is often used to refer to the "hamon am," the general Jewish population, and how "Yisroel" is used to refer to the Talmidei Chachaim, the Torah scholars, he explains the pasuk "מַה-טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ, יַעֲקֹב; מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ, יִשְׂרָאֵל" in Bamidbar 24:6 by way of a drush. He says that "מַה-טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ, יַעֲקֹב" refers to the beautiful Shuls and Batei Midrash that will be built by the general Jewish population. He explains that these Shuls and Batei Midrash should only be built on the condition that "מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ, יִשְׂרָאֵל," that they are a made as a dwelling place for the Talmidei Chachamim to learn Torah. The wealthy people of the nation should strengthen the hands of those who learn Torah in the Beis Medrash so that the these buildings will be just as beautiful inside, b'pnimius, as they are outside.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of seforim center)

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Anonymous said...

While I personally agree with your "pshat", since your title is "Thoughts on Life & Chassidus" you should be aware that the chassidic use of simple unadorned prayer rooms was an early innovation of the chassidic movement, and in fact it was perpetuated by the use of the word "shteebel" which very specificly means room, not synagogue or chapel. The concept was that without fancy accoutrements, the prayer itself became the focus of concentration.

Yossi G.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Just to clarify, this is not my pshat. This pshat was said by Rav Yaakov Yosef, the Toldos. He was one of the earliest expressions of Chassidus, and lived contemporaneously with the Me'or Einayim and the the Rebbe Reb Baruch of Mezibuz. These Rebbes are the earliest and most authentic expression of Toras HaBaal Shem Tov, as I understand it.

While I don't doubt that you are right that "simple" Shuls had the place that you say in early Chassidus, perhaps this was not universally agreed upon, or wasn't meant to apply in all circumstances. Or perhaps it's meant more as a warning against those who make the fancy Shuls, that these places will be considered empty if they don't match their holiness on the "inside" with their external beauty.

-Dixie Yid

-Dixie Yid