Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Tammuz 5764 - July 7, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Scaffolds, Stones and other Externals
by Bayla Gimmel

For several years, we did not have a single shul building in our neighborhood. People davened and learned in caravans and bomb shelters.

Finally, a building was constructed. First the outer shell was completed, along with floors and walls to partition the inside. Then the interior was finished and furnished. At last, we had a fitting place for our community to serve Hashem.

For lack of funds, the exterior of the building remained unfinished -- a gray concrete shell. "Someday," everyone said, "we are going to do something about this."

But somehow, `someday' was slow in coming. That is, until our congregation received a very official looking letter from the city reminding us, quite firmly, that every Jerusalem building must have a stone facing.

A contractor was hired and two long, tedious projects were launched. One was the fund raising and the second was the application of the stone. To facilitate the latter, a large number of long vertical metal poles and dozens of horizontal wooden planks were put in place to serve as scaffolds. These platforms encircled the building, enabling the workers to reach all parts of the walls.

It seemed as though the work went on forever, but actually, it took about two years. During that period, when we wanted to give directions to our street, we would tell people to look out the bus window until they saw a large gray building enclosed in scaffolding and then get off at the next stop.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, the last stone was set in place, the surface area was touched up and lo and behold! The facade of the shul was finished! The next day the workers came back and dismantled the scaffolding.

Neighbors stood on the sidewalk and watched. Everyone was thrilled. We could finally see the completed building, which is beautiful. But I shouldn't really say that everyone was thrilled.

There were a few young children who looked worried as the work progressed. These three- and four-year-olds had been very young when the scaffolding had been erected. To them, the poles and boards were the outside of the shul. They thought that these were holding up the building and now, all of a sudden, they were being taken away. It was frightening as well as confusing.

The mothers had to explain that the scaffolds were only necessarty for the workers to use in putting up the stones. Now that we had all of the stone that we needed, the poles and boards could be taken away to use at another construction site. The real structure of the building was the concrete shell that was no longer visible behind the stone.

We can all learn something from the children's error. We ourselves look at so many externals as though they were important parts of whatever lies within.

The primary example is the body which the Ribono Shel Olom has given each of us to enclose our neshoma during its sojourn in this world. Just as the scaffolding enabled the workers to do their job, so does the body facilitate our performance of mitzvos.

Our hands can prepare the food that we give to our families, sort the clothing that we distribute at our gemachim, bring a cup of tea to a sick person and record on paper our Torah thoughts. Our feet carry us to shul, to collect tzedoka and to a house of mourning to comfort the bereaved. We use our entire bodies to sit in a succa, to immerse in a mikve and to dwell in Eretz Yisroel.

The body hopefully lasts longer than the scaffolding, but it, too, is only temporary. The soul, like the shul inside the scaffolding, is what really counts.

What if someone had come to any of us during the two years of construction and said, "I have a great idea. The scaffolding doesn't look as nice as it could. Let's spend our mornings working on it. We can polish the poles and apply rich oils and varnish to the wooden boards to make them shine. Just think: we can have the nicest looking scaffolds in town."

Of course, we would laugh and walk away. But currently, we are being bombarded with ads for gyms and other physical fitness centers. Our ancestors kept fit by walking. It wasn't their choice -- there were no cars, buses, taxis and subways. If you wanted to get somewhere and you didn't have a horse and wagon, you walked.

Today we have a real problem keeping our weight down. Obesity is a rampant disease. As we add to our midsections, we also increase our chances of developing diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems.

That's where the fitness center comes in. Spend a few mornings/afternoons a week working out and you can either drop a few pounds, take your belt size in a couple of notches or both. It is very tempting.

How did the pounds roll on? By overeating, of course, Our ancestors couldn't go into a neighborhood store and pick up a liter of ice cream, a box of chocolate chip cookies and a bottle of cola. They didn't have access to half a dozen types of puddings, with or without whipped cream, in little plastic cups, Bamba, potato chips or candy bars.

Their homemade goodies didn't have as many calories and they weren't served daily. I remember as a child, on special occasions, we would come into the house and be greeted by a wonderful smell. My grandmother had baked that day. Poppy seed cookies. One cookie, not a bagful, was a special treat to be savored.

We wouldn't have to spend all of the time it takes to travel to a gym, to use all the fitness machines, and to return home, if only we could learn to do one simple exercise: sit and eat a meal, bentsh and push yourself away from the table before you are full and certainly before dessert is served.

Also, if you are doing a relatively short errand such as going to the post office to pick up a package, forget the bus. Pretend you are one of your ancestors and walk.

The ads for the fitness centers tell us that their programs accomplish more than just weight control. They `sculpt' the body. That is about as necessary as oiling the boards of the scaffolding. Trust me. After a hundred and twenty plus, sculpted bodies will return to the dust exactly the same way as everyone else's will.

While the shul was being completed, the contractor would come around periodically and spend a few minutes checking on the scaffolding to make sure it was adequate for its task.

Let's maintain our bodies by proper diet, adequate rest, walking (swimming) and regular health checkups. And IY"H, these will serve us well for many years to come.

Then we can spend our days on our important work -- the performance of mitzvos.


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