Recently I found myself thinking about the opening lines of Lamentations. There we read:
1 How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! 2 She weeps sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; she has none to comfort her among all her lovers; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. ( Lamentations 1:1-2)
This is a vivid depiction of Jerusalem sitting in isolation with no one to comfort her. I know it is not Tisha B’Av. So, why am reading Lamentations?
Well I clearly have destruction on my mind. We have learned about the destruction of Hurricane Sandy from watching or reading the news media, talking to friends or relatives who have been effected, or from personal experience. In addition to all of this I have seen this unfold from the perspective of the synagogues. My wife, Cantor Adina Frydman, is the head of SYNERGY: UJA-Federation and Synagogues Together
. She has been doing amazing work since the Hurricane working with synagogues. To ones that were not effected by the storm, synagogues like our own have served as amazing community centers giving relief and solace to community members. One exemplar of this has been Temple Beth Elohim
in Park Slope which has been doing amazing relief work.In addition to this, there are around 50 synagogues which have been severely damaged or destroyed.
Last week Adina went to visit a bunch of these synagogues. She returned to share with me the horrible images. Here is a picture of one synagogue that was trying to dry out six Sifrei Torah after a 14 foot wake went through their sanctuary.
The first thing she said to me when she got home was, “There really aught to be a blessing you can say for this.” And there is one. It is the same blessing that you say when you hear that someone has died. We say, ” Baruch Dayan Emet -Blessed be the Judge of truth”.
And while Sandy has been a story laden with destruction, it has also been one of communities and the community as a whole coming together to rebuild. So what is the blessing we hope to say when we see a rebuilt synagogue? In the Talmud we read:
Our Rabbis taught: On seeing the houses of Israel, when inhabited one says: Blessed be God maziv gevul almana- who sets the boundary of the widow; when uninhabited, Blessed be the judge of truth. ( Berachot 58B)
What widow are we talking about? The widow from Lamentations is the Temple and Jerusalem. And we are supposed to see our synagogue as a Mikdash Me’at
– a small Temple.
As Rashi explains it is written “as a widow”, not a real widow, but as a woman whose husband’s has left her but intends to come back. When we see it restored we see that the long-lost husband has finally returned. We have a lot of urgent needs to meet. Eventually we will help these synagogues be rebuilt. We all need to do our part. One way is to contribute to UJA Federation of New York
May we all be blessed to be restored, rebuilt, and reconnected with the ones we love.