Wednesday, July 25, 2012


What is The Place?

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths


     Late Shabbos afternoon a rabbi came up to me at the Kotel with a group of young students. They were American boys in Israel for a short trip. They were all religious, but what is called “more modern.”

     He knows me mostly from my videos. He asked, “What is the most important thing you can tell these boys?”

     I said, “The most important thing of all, they already know. They have to marry Jewish girls. I do not have to worry about this with these boys. But there is something else that they do not know, and for them, this is the most important thing of all.”

     I had their interest. I went on, “The biggest problem for these boys is that the Torah is not being taught to them in the right way.”

    “What do you mean?” he wanted to know.

     I said, “They are being taught like this…” (I pointed my finger, made a stern face, and shook my finger at them) “…instead of like this…” (I held my hands, palms up, and reached up a little as if I was yearning to receive some unseen, mystical Presence.) Now, I really had their interest.

     He knew what I meant, (that there are no spiritual teachings being taught) but he did not know how to even begin to go about fixing it. He asked again, “What do you mean?”

     “Okay, let me ask you a question.” I directed the question to the boys. “What is the place?”

     One of the most outspoken of the boys said, “What do you mean, ‘What’s the place?’ The place is the Kotel!”

      I said, “No, the Kotel is in the Place. I am asking about the place itself. What’s the place?”

     He said, “Jerusalem.”

     I said, “Jerusalem is also in the place. It’s not the place. What is the place?”

     He and the other boys were getting frustrated with me. “What are you talking about? This place is Jerusalem. It’s Israel!

     Again I said, “No, those are in the place. What is the place?”

     I went around the group trying to get them to answer. A few tried but they always named something that is located in the place.

     “Look,” I said, “Where is the end of the place?”

     One of them said, “The borders of Israel.”

     I said, “The place goes on beyond Israel, doesn’t it? Of course it does. There is some place even outside Israel, isn’t there? Where is the end of the place?”

     One of them said, “It doesn’t end!”

     “So where is it?”

     Another yelled, “Everywhere!”

     Then I went back to the first boy, and saw that he was beginning to understand a little. I asked him, “How do you say “place” in Hebrew?”

     “Hamakom,” he quickly answered.

     “What does that mean?” I asked.

     Now he was really frustrated with me, and he said louder “The place!”

     I quietly said, “HaMakom is one of G-d’s names.”

     His head jerked a little when it hit him. He looked around as if he was trying to see the Place.

     I said, “The Place is everywhere, all over. It fills and surrounds everyone and everything. It is without end.” I moved my hands in all the directions. “It is G-d Who fills and surrounds everything.”

     Each boy understood at his own level, some more than others. But even the ones who seemed to really understand only “got it” on a simple, intellectual level.

     But, if they will work on it, take the information to heart, over and over again; it will become theirs… their level or degree of spiritual understanding.

     Then, they will go through life with different intentions. They will be looking up, yearning for His Presence, and they will be looking around to see what they can give, instead of straining to see what they can take.


  1. Yes, I think you're right that yearning is very important, and should be taught. Think of how many times the term yearning is used in tehillim! This quote is one place to start:

    "The main thing is desire. Always long and yearn to come closer to God.

    Many people would like to serve God but not all have the same desire. There are many different levels of desire. Even in one and the same person, the intensity of his desire may change from moment to moment. The main thing is to yearn constantly for God - and in between, to pray, study and keep His commandments." (Sichos Haran 51)

  2. There is a big scandal now in the public religious school system. Apparently, the ruach of the Torah study has changed next year and includes a lot of critical texts including those bordering on or even similar to Xian criticism of the Torah. The Mamad claims in defence that it is trying to engage the kids who generally do not like to study Torah. A lot of rabbis are on the verge of calling for a boycott.

    But I think the main issue is that it is the teachers who do not like to teach Torah that affects the kids.

  3. My husband always tells me that one of the most important pieces of advice that helped him in his journey came from a Rav who told him that the yearning to do teshuva and the yearning for Hashem is just as powerful as the physical actions. It kept him going and has made him an expert yearner!!! My children have seen their father stressed and low but the yearning has never left him and my children are also yearners because of it and never give up!!


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