LEAVE IT OUT | Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

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Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

Do you remember when a mobile phone needed its own trailer to get it about? Ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but they were certainly a large handful. At first they were a rare commodity, used by only certified ‘machers’ (of which obviously I was one). But technology never stops evolving, and now everyone has a slim phone in their pocket. Truth be said, we hardly use ‘landlines’ today, not when you can be anywhere and anytime yakking away. Let’s not fool ourselves, they are ubiquitous and we feel lost without them. Your phone is your lifeline, your safety place that will always be there for you. Always, except where they should never be! One such place is in Shul!

We are slowly coming out of a dark time. Our shuls have been locked up, dormant and weeping, as we were kept at home for our own safety. Hashem has granted us a reprieve, He has allowed us the merit to return to our Shtieblech and shuls, once again we can open our hearts to the Eibishter in the company of our brethren.

That which we had often taken for granted was suddenly swept away from us but now we can return, caress the peroches, gaze at the Sifrei Torah, and sense the kedusha that rests gently within its walls.  So much of who we are is distilled in the experience of davening with others. Our connection with kaveuchal the Eibishter, with our friends, our loved ones and so much more, revolves around the fulcrum point that is our shul. All that is a Hiemisha Yied, finds its nucleus within the precincts of these hallowed grounds.

So now we prepare our return. All the sorrow of our isolation wafts into memory, as we ready our souls for our long awaited reconnection. However, before we get carried away with the joyous outpouring of our hearts, we all must look into our souls and accept that to earn the right of this return things must change. To have gone thru so much and all for naught would be a sin against our neshomahs. We must come back with a new awareness of what it is to be in a shul. What it means to receive the waves if kedusha that our joint tefillos create.

I cried when I had to lock the doors of my shtieble. It is the home to my Chabura and we have shared so much together. I had lost my Rebbetzin A’H shortly before all this, and now I was losing my shul. The weeks trudged by, and like most, I reached out to each of my chevra over the phone. However it’s all well and good to share words of hope over a slab of plastic, but nothing comes close to feeling the warmth of a personal shmooz with a chaver and family.

Now that the time of reopening our shuls draws near, I rack my brains trying to figure what I can do to share my joy and bring a tikun to all the myriad of challenges we have all experienced. I have been blessed with a brilliant olam of close chaverim, we have bonded together to form a shtieble of like-minded seeking neshomahs. Now that we are going to be coming back to our home, what ingredient can we add to help us all reach the next level of kedusha? As our feet step closer to the doors of our beloved shuls, it is a moment of reckoning, ‘how can we make things better for the future?’

Our minds flit from one aspect to another, yet we seek that one ingredient that serves as an indicator for a more positive future. For me, one direct action keeps harking back to my consciousness. We must all turn off our phones upon entering any Bais Medrash. No if’s nor buts, Turn off the phone, full stop.

Phones are addictive, they are made to be so. Even kosher ones have a tendency to highjack our attention and disrupt our concentration.  What was once a convenience has become a focal point to too many lives.

Let us all allow for this sacred space to be just that, a place free from any outside interruptions. A place where you can consecrate without the buzz, whistle or ring from these purveyors of instant diversion.

Hashem has been in golus with us, He has longed for our tefillos just as we have longed to say them. How crass would one be to think that we should return to business as usual? Phones in hand, mind wandering as the shliach tzibur rattles out our holy tefillos at a rate that can only be measured in Olympic terms or our  sideway glances at those beckoning screens in the middle of a shiur.  Phones bring a whispered cacophony of distraction to our most holy of atmospheres. It may seem innocent, but it corrupts our spirituality.

Sweet Yidden, we now know what our shuls mean to us, we have all been ground down  with the sadness that dragged our Shabbosim into uncharted levels of loneliness. Don’t allow this all to have been for naught, instead let’s rebuild our bond with our shuls on a solid foundation. Let us be ‘mekable’ upon ourselves that we can and will change. That the steady undertone of phones etc will be banished from our holiest places. That the uneasiness caused by constant messages and texts will be banished from our spiritual homes.

I know there will be those who will read these lines with a sense of déjà vu, ‘once again the best we can come up with is yet another set of chumros’.  Allow me to stop you in mid thought, because from all this pain we must find some measure of change.

If you step back and honestly think over the matter, you will do it because you love our community and accept it needs some honest retrospection. The fine tuning of the decorum of our Mikdash me’at has long been called for. The unique problem of the mobile phones has always been that their introduction into society crept in slowly, first only a few, then the stream grew, until it became obligatory. Where could you draw a line, after all everyone had one?

Well, now we restart with a clean slate…no one has nor needs to bring them into our shuls. We all start at the same place, bonded with a joy and realisation of how wondrous our shuls are. We need not look over our shoulders, no one else is calling out nor texting, we are all here as one. Klall Yisroel, Hashem’s chosen nation, giving of ourselves to receive in exchange Hashem’s bountiful blessings.

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