Building Our Lives – Lessons from Rabbi Halberstam
The Fellowship | March 10, 2016
So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. — Exodus 40:17
The Torah portion for this week is Pekudei, which means “counting,” from Exodus 38:21–40:38, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 7:51–8:21.
Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam was a prominent rabbi who survived the horrors of the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, the rabbi lost his wife and his 11 children. However, Rabbi Halberstam went on to rebuild his life, remarrying, having seven more children, and establishing a community in Israel. Among the rabbi’s many well-known sayings is the following: “The greatest miracle that has ever happened is not the splitting of the Red Sea. The greatest miracle is the one that we, the survivors of the Holocaust, after all we witnessed and lived through, still have faith in the Almighty God, may His name be blessed.”
Indeed, one of the most difficult things in life is to rise again from a challenge that has knocked you flat.
In this week’s Torah portion we read about the completion of the construction of the Tabernacle: “So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year.” According to Jewish tradition, while the Tabernacle was set up on the first of the month of Nissan, this was not the first time that the Tabernacle had been erected. For seven days preceding that day, Moses had built the Tabernacle and dismantled it seven times.
Why would Moses do such a thing?
The Jewish sages teach that Moses foresaw that the Tabernacle would be taken down five times and that the Temple would be destroyed twice. He wanted to demonstrate to the people that although the House of God might fall seven times, it would always be rebuilt. The sages connect this idea to these verses from Proverbs: “Do not lurk like a thief near the house of the righteous, do not plunder their dwelling place; for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (Proverbs 24:15–16). This verse, whether referring to the House of God or a righteous person, teaches the same lesson: It’s not about how many times we fall; it’s about getting back up again and rebuilding.
According to Rabbi Halberstam, keeping our faith and rebuilding our lives after a tragedy or difficult situation is the greatest miracle of all.
In life we will encounter many challenges, including some that may shake our faith to its core and leave us hurting. However, the most important thing we can do when facing those times is to get up and rebuild. If Rabbi Halberstam could do it after what he experienced during the horrors of the Holocaust, then we can, too.
No matter how many times we fall, no matter how many times everything we have built has fallen apart, we must always keep rebuilding and never lose faith.