Israel Forever

For the week ending 9 February 2008 / 3 Adar I 5768

Preying on Prayer

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
A sanctuary in which Jews can serve their G-d with sacrifices and prayer is a central concept in Jewish life. While our ancestors were still in the wilderness on their way to Eretz Yisrael, this week's Torah portion tells us, they were commanded to establish a sanctuary "so that I shall dwell among them".

This temporary sanctuary gave way hundreds of years later to the Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem. With the destruction of that Temple and its successor all that was left of sanctuary service was the prayer of Jews in the mini-sanctuary of a synagogue.

It therefore came as a shock to learn that the secular Ohel Shem High School in Ramat Gan has denied its students permission to pray on school premises. An average of 15 students participate in the mincha service but when the principal stopped them more students who were not even interested in praying joined them in protest against the school's anti-religious policy.

As discouraging as it is to see Jews in the Jewish state prevented from praying, there is an encouraging sign in the fact that in the prestigious secular Bleich High School in the same city as Ohel Shem, there is a mincha prayer group averaging 20 students and sometimes with as many as 60 which has been meeting regularly since last year.

This groundswell of interest in prayer on the part of secular youth will hopefully grow into a guarantee of security for Israel forever.

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