Levi Liberow, Beis Moshiach
When you went toy shopping in the era before Jewish toys were being produced, the selection was limited to Mickey Mouse, Barbie Doll, and Superman. But there were one or two kosher options; Donald Duck of course, and Thomas the Tank Engine.
He was not a non-kosher animal; he was not teaching your son or daughter anything harmful about their body or soul; he was just a tank engine.
Thomas is a simple, lifeless, steam engine to whom its creator, a British storyteller, gave a smiling face and other human features. Thomas and his friends talk, smile, argue, and laugh. They have adventures and dreams, and only appear to be lifeless trains.
“Humanizing” lifeless objects is a Jewish thing. The Ba’al Shem Tov teaches us that whatever we see or hear can teach us a lesson in serving Hashem; even a Steam Engine can talk to us.
So, here is an essential lesson from a steam engine the Rebbe once related in the name of the Frierdiker Rebbe at a farbrengen (Parshas Re’eh 5712):
The Italian railroad system had earned itself a reputation for being notoriously disorganized. Often, when all the passengers were seated in the train cars, waiting to embark on the trip, the locomotive would give a loud honk and set out on its way alone. That is without the train cars, which remained standing in the station!
“The obvious lesson we can take from this,” said the Rebbe, “is that the Avoda of the Neshama must be tied to the body so that the body will also ‘travel along’ and become elevated with the Neshama.”
There is an important lesson here about leadership — the steam engine must be connected to the train cars.
But once he’s running together with the train cars, he might mistakenly think that he’s a car like all the others. The steam engine must also remember that he’s the engine and they’re the cars.
I am reminded of this now, in the “Three Weeks,” when we put an additional focus on learning Hilchos Beis Habechirah.
When the Rebbe started this campaign in 5736, it was a new and novel thing. Jews studied Gemara, Chumash, Shulchan Aruch, Mussar, and even Kabbalah and Chassidus, but a particular focus on Hilchos Beis Habechirah was unheard of.
Over the years, like with many other of the Rebbe’s chiddushim, others “hopped on the train” and tied their cars to the Rebbe’s locomotive. Beis Hamikdash awareness became mainstream.
There are dozens of books, videos, lectures, and organizations that focus on the Beis Hamikdash, and this is a positive development, but this “explosion” of resources presents a challenge. We must remain aware that we are the locomotive, and we must steer this train towards its correct destination.
To speak rather bluntly, many of these organizations approach the matter from a different perspective than the one the Rebbe teaches us. And no, I don’t mean that they show rounded Menorahs…
A telling example is a video I recently saw by a rabbi from “The Temple Institute” — an organization based in Yerushalayim that has raised tremendous awareness for the Beis Hamikdash by bringing many concepts to life with their beautiful paintings and models.
In this video, part of a series called “Holy Temple Myth Busters,” the speaker attempts to dispel a “myth” that the Beis Hamikdash will descend from Heaven. He busts the “myth” by citing sources that support his opinion while ignoring sources that speak of such an idea unless he can make them sound allegorical.
We know that there is a machlokes among Rishonim about this, but Rabbi Richman and The Temple Institute prefer the more “rational” approach. That’s fine, but it doesn’t turn what the Zohar, Rashi, and Tosfos say into a myth.
In any case, the rabbi conclusively decides (in the next video) that “The Beit Hamikdash is not going to fall from the sky” and moves on to debunk another “myth” — that Moshiach will build it.
“The Rambam does write that Moshiach will build it” he acknowledges, “but,” he makes a gross misrepresentation of the last two chapters of the Rambam’s Halachic magnum opus, “these are not Halachot…”
Debunking the myths created out of thin air by this series of “myth busters” will require another article, but I want to point out their faulty premise.
The rabbis of the Temple Institute and similar organizations hail from the so-called “Religious Zionist” camp, who, for the most part, are G-d fearing and scholarly people. But they mistakingly developed a belief system in which certain aspects of the Geulah can begin without Moshiach leading them, which runs contrary to a universally accepted Halachah.
Their efforts to raise Beis Hamikdash awareness comes from the same belief — that we can do it alone if only we want, which is a bad mistake.
The easy way to deal with this is to “boycott” and ignore them as many Chareidi Jews do. But there are a couple of problems with that.
Firstly, pragmatically speaking, they do good work and provide many useful resources.
Secondly, people with a Beis Hamikdash awareness are more likely to be open to hearing other opinions. They could be presented with the proper outlook if it’s coming from a place of love and respect. We should engage with them and teach the truth in a non-condescending way.
Thirdly, such purism is an “ani es nafshi hitzalti” approach which is antithetical of our mission of being the steam engine of the Geulah train.
In next week’s issue, we will discuss, with Hashem’s help, the Rebbe’s approach to studying Hilchos Beis Habechirah and what its intended purpose is.
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