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King David said, “How beloved are Your dwelling places. My soul yearns for G-d’s courtyards. Even the bird finds its home and the swallow her nest.” (Psalms 84) David yearned for the Temple, a House where he could feel comfortable and close to G-d. The Temple represented to him a protective sanctuary, where nothing and no one could harm him. He compared himself to a bird whose flimsy nest provides minimal protection, constantly threatened even when nestled in that nest. A bird surrounded by a sturdy house feels protected. However, when it leaves the protective walls, even to attend to its needs, it is confronted by exile and tension. David yearned to build G-d’s house, to be in His presence, where he can proclaim, “Happy are they that dwell in Thy house.” Like the Temple to David, the synagogue represents the embracing environment that allows us to rendezvous with G-d through prayer. We connect with G-d at the highest level by observing the Sabbath sanctity. We can only reach these heights in our relationship with G-d through proper preparation.

After spending the night on what would become the Temple Mount, the ultimate House of Prayer, Jacob expressed remorse for his lack of preparation prior to entering such a holy place. He was frightened by his surroundings as he felt cut off from the protection of his father’s house upon fleeing from Esau. After the dream, he appreciated that this place was the true House of G-d, where he could feel comfortable in G-d’s embrace and pour out his soul in prayer. He yearned to stay there, to dwell in that House. He renamed the area Beit El, indicating that this is his family’s home, the House of G-d, a house that facilitates prayer, where he and they can feel safe. However, Jacob realized that he must leave that protective house and travel to Laban’s house; he had to go into exile like the bird leaving his protective home, exposing himself to danger. He prayed to return in peace, to again bask in the warmth of the house that facilitates his complete relationship with G-d. Only then can he fulfill his promise to tithe whatever he acquires and proclaim, “Happy are they that dwell in Thy house.”

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Rabbi Joshua Rapps attended the Rav's shiur at RIETS from 1977 through 1981 and is a musmach of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. He and his wife Tzipporah live in Edison, N.J. Rabbi Rapps can be contacted at [email protected].