Tent or House?
My cousin invited me to a Sheva Berachot celebrating his daughter’s recent marriage. My uncle, Rabbi Avraham Pincus zt”l, a truly righteous scholar, my Tante Chava z”l, one of the three greatest human beings I ever met, were there, and I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to spend time with them.
As with most such celebrations, there were numerous speeches. They all ended with the same phrase, “May they merit to build a Bayit Ne’eman, a Reliable Home, in Israel.” I didn’t want to speak, and few of the participants wanted another speech, but my uncle and aunt insisted that I speak.
I decided to begin where everyone else ended: “May they merit to build a Bayit Ne’eman in Israel. Yet, before we had a Bayit, a permanent home in the Beit Hamikdash, the Temple, we first had a tent, the Ohel Moed, which moved around from place to place. Eventually, the tent remained in a fixed place in Shiloh for 310 years, with permanent walls, but still covered as a tent. It took many years before the Tent became a House. It happens in stages. So, while I join all of the distinguished speakers in wishing the bride and groom that they succeed in building a Bayit, a permanent home, I add that they should merit to begin as an unfixed Tent, eventually achieving a sense of a permanent House and home.”
My uncle immediately rose to explain why I was wrong. “You cannot even suggest that there is anything temporary about their marriage!” He then proceeded to give a lengthy discourse on the difference between the Mishkan and the Beit Hamikdash.
Everyone was stunned. It is rare that anyone listens to the numerous speeches at such gatherings. Everyone responds with “Yasher Koach,” and then forget about what was said. Certainly, no one stands up to debate another speaker!
Uncle Avraham was a giant of righteousness and scholarship. He was the most gentle of men. No one expected his public response.
I disagreed with all he said, but chose to remain silent out of respect for the great man.
As we were all leaving the celebration, I said to him, “Uncle Avraham, your entire life has been devoted to being a Tent in which people can find Torah speaking to their particular circumstances and issues. Your wife studied with Sarah Schneirer in Poland specifically to learn how to teach American girls who were so different from their Polish contemporaries. The Holy Ark with the Luchot has a place in the Tent, in fact, even more so than in the House. The Torah is the constant, but its presentation begins and thrives in Tents, not Houses.”
“Yes, but it was your being rooted in the House of your youth that convinced you to respectfully remain silent even as I publicly challenged you.”
“But, Uncle Avraham, I always thought of the place of my youth as a tent.”
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