I was walking toward the synagogue I was privileged to lead when I saw a distraught woman storm out and walk directly toward the church a block or so away. I couldn’t catch up to her before she entered the church, so I waited outside for more than an hour.
“Please excuse me,” I said, “I’m the rabbi of the synagogue you left before heading to this church, and I’m wondering what happened. Can you please tell me?”
“You should be ashamed of yourself and your synagogue,” she said.
“I went into your synagogue, the first time I have entered one in years, because I wanted to sit in the sanctuary and feel close to God. The door to the sanctuary was locked and when I asked to be allowed in, I was told that you do not open the sanctuary for people. I knew that the church would welcome me, and I was welcomed with open arms!”
I stood up, stretched, soaking up the sun, and enjoying the beautiful day, handed my card to her, and promised her that I would make sure that the sanctuary would be opened whenever she needed to return. I began to walk away.
I stopped and turned back.
“Why did you wait for me?” She walked with me as I headed toward the synagogue.
“I waited so that you would know that you don’t need to sit in a synagogue to feel close to God; He may very well come to you!”
“You’re not God!”
“Certainly not, thank God! But why do you think that He will come directly to you when you are ignoring Him?” I looked up again at the beautiful sky, smiled at her and began to walk away.
“How do you know I ignore Him?” she asked as she ran to catch up with me.
I looked up yet again at the beautiful sky, absorbing the sun’s light and warmth. I turned to her and pointed up, and, again, began to walk away.
“I don’t understand!”
“Where is God more present? In a synagogue, a church, or,” pointing up, “the sky? The synagogue’s job is to teach you how to point to God’s Presence outside its walls. The staff made a mistake. They are overwhelmed with their work, but they are well-meaning. You are on a search for God. You entered the synagogue and then ran for a church. You are already a searcher; now become a pointer!”
By this time, we were already standing in front of the synagogue. “What’s a ‘Pointer’” she asked.
“Someone who can point at the sky and say, ‘God is there!’ Someone who can point at you, a searcher, and say, ‘God is there!”
“How do I become a pointer?”
“Come to my classes and you’ll learn.”
She came. She is now a pointer.
She was once asked how she came to join the class, and she responded, “Rabbi Weinberg made me feel that God was pointing at me, and challenged me to point back.”
Ulla Bira’ah said in the name of Rabbi Eleazar: In the days to come the Holy One, blessed be He, will form a circle for the righteous and He will sit in their midst in the Garden of Eden and every one of them will point with his finger towards Him, as it is said, “And it shall be said in that day: ‘Lo, this is our God, for whom we waited, that He might save us; this is the Lord for whom we waited, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation’ (Ta’anit 31a).”
Our picture of the Garden of Eden is a community of pointers.
This Talmudic teaching is the conclusion to the discussion about Tu B’Av, the Fifteenth of Av. We lost our Sanctuary on the 9th of Av, and yet, six days later we celebrate that we have retained our ability to point our fingers toward Him and say, “This is our God, for whom we waited, that He might save us; this is the Lord for whom we waited, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”
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