In 1956, Rav Soloveitchik, talking about the impending redemption of the Jewish people, gave a speech at Yeshiva University that sent shockwaves throughout the Jewish world. It was titled “Kol Dodi Dofek – the Beloved knocks”. He told Shir Hashirim’s tragic story of a couple deeply in love. One night the young lover knocks on his beloved’s door, but she is too tired and tells him sleepily to go away and come back tomorrow.
She awakens the next day and goes searching for him but eventually realizes he is gone forever, lost to her for all time because she missed her opportunity.
The Rav argued that each of us is given a chance to reach for something, to become great and to actualize our potential. We learn from Shir HaShirim that we must not let apathy, feelings of inadequacy or laziness spoil this opportunity.
The Rav then spoke of six knocks on the collective door of the Jewish people calling us all to awaken to our responsibilities as Jews and reach for greatness. These knocks were the six miraculous events accompanying the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
The sixth and greatest knock, said Rav Soloveitchik in 1956, was ‘kibbutz galiot’ – the ingathering of exiles, as Jews returned to Israel from around the world. We prayed every day for 2000 years to ingather the exiles and it happened.
They came from all corners of the globe, the Jewish people came home.
This week I want to take that idea one step further. With a very special story to show kibbutz galiot is not just the ingathering of people to Israel.
Last Shabbat afternoon, like every Shabbat, I went to Mincha.
I was in Israel for my son’s Bar Mitzvah, we were spending Shabbat with my brother and sister in law, and we were in Ramat Bet Shemesh. My son was laining at Mincha. As he stepped on the Bimah to begin his laining, I felt a lump in my throat – but not just because he was about to lain for the first time.
You see the shul, Ahavat Tzion, my brother’s shul, began in a classroom in 1999. It was attended by many olim from the UK and the USA and they began to try to build their shul in the modern State of Israel. They fundraised but they just couldn’t afford the main areas, the aron kodesh, the bimah etc.
The call went out to the diaspora; were there any shuls that were dying, who had no more need of their vestments?
Let’s stop that story for a minute and go back 100 years, to Dublin. My family arrives from Europe, thankful to escape what was to become an inferno 25 years later. My great grandfather Rabbi Jacob and his son Eli help grow the Adelaide Road Shul in Dublin, in which my grandfather becomes the Life President and both him and my father are Bar Mitzvah at that Shul.
Adelaide Road Shul has a glorious history, but the community eventually moves away and by 1999 it held its last service and the shul closed. At about the same time Ahavat Tzion opens.
Eventually the message gets to Dublin and unbelievably; the Bimah, the Ark and all the coverings made their way to Israel – to now be proudly used in my brother’s shul.
That’s why I felt the lump, here was my son, his first laining as a Bar Mitzvah in Medinat Yisrael yet standing on the same Bimah to be Bar Mitzvah as his grandfather was, and his great grandfather was.
If you want to understand Jewish Continuity – you just had to be there that Shabbat. Hashem didn’t just ingather the exiles, he is gathering in the shuls as well!
I wonder – when my great grandfather walked into Adelaide Road Shul in the 1920’s if he could have believed that within 30 years we would have a state of our own. Within 100 years, the shul that he is davening in would literally move 3000 miles to Israel – to be founded by his great grandchild and to witness the Bar Mitzvahs of his great-great grandchildren.
In two months that state turns 70 – I will be there to recognize the miracle of our return and to thank God for bringing us back. Please join us.
This Shabbat I will just focus on my sons Bar Mitzvah and thank God for my family, our eternal Torah and our community.
Rabbi Andrew Shaw