Lesson from the Talmud
By Avi Lazerson
Sometimes big things come in small packages, occasionally we stumble upon something of great value in places where you did not expect to find them. The following jewel is found in Tractate Brachot 3a. Let us read it and then examine its deep meaning to us.
R. Yossi said that once when I was on the road, I entered one of the ruins of Jerusalem to pray. The prophet Elijah came and waited for me at the door until I had finished my prayer. When I had finished my prayer he said to me, "Peace be with you, Rabbi", and I answered, "Peace be upon you, my master and teacher" Then he said, "my son, why have you come into this ruin?"
I replied, "I came in to pray."
He said "You should have prayed on the road."
I answered, "I was afraid that I might be disturbed by people passing by."
He said, "You should have a prayed a shorter version of your prayer."
From this Rabbi Yossi said that he learned three things. First, that we should not go into a ruin, secondly, that it is permitted to pray on the road, and thirdly, that those who do pray on the road may pray a shortened prayer.
Then Elijah said to me: "Son, what did you hear in the ruins?"
I replied, "I heard [a bat kol] a divine voice cooing like a dove, saying: Woe to my children, for their sin caused me to have destroyed my house, burnt my temple and drove them to live among the nations."
Where upon Elijah replied: "As you live and upon your head, not at this time only, but three times a day. Not only then, but also when the Jews go in to the synagogues and into their hall of learning, and answer 'May His Great Name be Blessed,' G-d shakes his head and says, 'Blessed is the king to whom they say thusly in his home but woe to the father who has driven his sons out and woe to the children who are banished from the table of their father'."
The entire story is examined intensively by the early great rabbis who explain each part of this story in great length and depth. It is, however, from the last part of the above story that we find something very interesting and on that only we shall concentrate.
We see clearly that G-d, Himself, is in a state of woe over the destruction of the Temple and the exile of His people. What a tragedy the destruction of the Temple was - not only to the Jewish people, but also to G-d! The exile of His people from His 'home', the Temple, was very painful to Him.
Understanding this, we can appreciate that when the Jews lived in their land and the Holy Temple stood that the Jews brought sacrifices. This created a very deep connection between G-d and His children. The connection to G-d was not only through study of the Torah and performance of His mitzvot as it is today, but even greater through the personal sacrifices that the Jews would bring to G-d with the sacrifices in the Temple. Nations of the world came and marveled at the greatness of a deity that brought such peace and splendor to His people. In this manner G-d's greatness was revealed through out the world; even gentiles brought sacrifices to the Temple.
Once the Holy Temple was destroyed, the Jews were scattered through out the nations of the world. The long and terrible exile of His children amongst those who despise us bring the Jews into a constant state of lowness. The nations look upon us in disgust; and even worse is that the glory of G-d is no longer revealed through us and subsequently His greatness is diminished through out the world.
Only in this prayer when we proclaim, "May His Great Name be Blessed", meaning that may His greatness be brought down again into the earth and revealed to all and increased again as it was once during the time of the Temple does G-d find some comfort.
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The Rabbis of the Talmud explain that this refrain (Heb: y'hai shemai raboh) that we say during the recitation of Kaddish was inserted in the Kaddish prayer exactly for this reason. It is important to have this in mind, so that when we state "May His Great Name be Blessed", that we should remember that it is our desire that G-d once again reveal Himself not only to us but also to the nations of the world just as He once did when the Holy Temple was standing.
Perhaps if we all begin to say this phrase with the proper intentions we will merit to see G-d reveal His Holy Presence not only in Jerusalem, in the rebuilt third Temple, but also in the whole world.
from the January 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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