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SHUL IS COOL

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by Rabbi David Zauderer 
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

 In this week’s Torah portion, we find Moses giving the people a chilling prophecy of the horrors that would befall them if they spurned G-d and the Torah. Before the bad prophecy commences, the Torah gives the blessings that will accrue the nation for fulfilling the commandments of the Torah.

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   In this week’s Torah portion, we find Moses giving the people a chilling prophecy of the horrors that would befall them if they spurned G-d and the Torah. Before the bad prophecy commences, the Torah gives the blessings that will accrue the nation for fulfilling the commandments of the Torah.

                G-d writes that if we listen to Him and follow His Torah, then He will send us blessings. One of the blessings mentioned is – “Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field” (Deuteronomy 28:3). The Talmud (Tractate Baba Metzia 107) explains that the blessing “in the city” means that we will merit to live in close proximity to a synagogue. The blessing “in the field“ means that we will have a lavatory near the house. (This blessing is hard to relate to since the advent of indoor plumbing, but not more than 80 years ago, outhouses were the “in”, or should I say “out“ thing! So let’s not take our three-and-a-half baths with Jacuzzi for granted!)

                It’s a little difficult to comprehend the great “blessing“ that we are being promised for doing G-d’s word – that we don’t have to walk twelve blocks to get to the synagogue. You would think that the blessing we would get in the city would mean a nice penthouse apartment in Buckhead, in addition to the sprawling Colonial in the burbs. But that we should live near a synagogue?

                The truth is that living near, and being involved in, a vibrant shul, or synagogue, is one of the greatest blessings we could ask for. We all want our children to grow up as good, decent Jews, who will one day raise their own children to be good, decent Jews. And for this we need all the help we can get.

                Just for the kids to hang around the synagogue, which is (hopefully) a good environment for them to grow in, is a great thing. Plus, it gives us a sense of belonging to the community, instead of living in isolation from our fellow Jews, only to come out of hibernation for a few festivals out of the year.

                In addition, most synagogues have some type of Jewish learning and Torah study going on a frequent basis. This is good for all parties concerned. The adults learn more about their own heritage, and it sends a message to the kids – “Mom and Dad sure take this Judaism stuff seriously. Maybe I should look into it. Maybe it has some value to me in my own life.”

                If we can somehow teach our kids that “shul is cool” and that there’s no “sin” in going to “syn”agogue, there’s a good chance that they will continue to remain good Jews who themselves will one day affiliate with a synagogue, and continue on the cycle of passing on the Jewish tradition to the next generation.

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Rabbi David Zauderer is a card-carrying member of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel.

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