There’s Always Room For You

This Sunday being Yom Yerushalayim, marking the reunification of the city of Jerusalem, I am reminded of a mishnah at the end of the book of Pirkei Avot, in which it is told that ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, known as the Beit HaMikdash. The last of these miracles was:

“No person ever said to his/her friend: ‘it is too crowded a place for me to lodge overnight in Jerusalem.'”

The city of Jerusalem, we know, would swell with pilgrims coming to offer animals and grain for worship in the Beit HaMikdash, and as such there was little elbow room in the city. Anyone who has been to the kotel in Jerusalem during a major holiday or even on certain Shabbatot will recall what this claustrophobic phenomenon is like. Likewise, it seems a bit odd that this statement should be classified as a miracle. Yes, the Temple courtyard would be crowded, but is it really a miracle that nobody complained about it? Perhaps the author of our text had a sense of humor about people’s propensity for kvetching.

But there is a true miracle hidden in this text, in which it is important to notice the deliberate presence of the word haver. It was not necessary for the text to include this word; it would have been just as clear a statement if it said that no person complained that it was too crowded to lodge overnight in Jerusalem. But it is something entirely different to recognize that no person felt unwelcome among friends and acquaintances. To look around at a room full of people, some of whom you may know, many others you do not, and feel immediately that there is enough space for you and that the place is not too narrow for you to settle in – well, it is not without a pinch of discomfort to say that this is a form of a miracle.

That is why we are devoting our summer this year to exploring the theme of haveirut, friendship, to help bring about at Camp Ramah and in our home communities the kind of miracle that each individual experienced in the Beit HaMikdash: the feeling that there is always room for you.

Categories: Holidays