The Communication Generation
Written in English by Braha Bender
Young people of today have been called the “communication generation”. It’s not just that you can make a phone call to anyone from anywhere at all, it’s that modern communication technology has shaped the character of an entire generation. Modern advances, including the industrial and technological revolutions, have literally changed our world into a different place and none of it would have been possible without sophisticated communication devices. The development of connections between disparate locales has facilitated extraordinary achievements.
Looking at it from this perspective, former generations’ communicative abilities look extremely primitive. The “highways”, “mailboxes”, and “vehicles” of yesteryear appear cumbersome and ineffectual relative to the communication devices of today. We look back at our ancestors with pity for all the trouble they had to go to without airplanes and cell phones.
We have forgotten that our ancestors benefited from a particular “communications system” more efficient and sophisticated than we can possibly imagine. The system was all-encompassing, completely streamlined, and with the added benefit of having no system glitches getting in the way whatsoever. Despite the fact that their communication system made ours look like child’s play, almost nothing of that brilliant “technology” is left in our hands today.
Our communications systems allow us to share a greater quantity of words, theirs allowed them to share a greater quality of messages. Our communications systems allow us to share more talk. Theirs allowed them to share more connection. That connection was not limited to human beings. Their communications system encompassed the ability to link heaven and earth, man and his Creator, the created world and the Almighty Himself. Our ancestors’ communications system was called the Beis HaMikdash.
Our sages explain that a direct link existed between the physical “Beis HaMikdash of Below” and the spiritual “Beis HaMikdash of Above”. These constituted a type of two-prong spiritual transmission station. Reality was cast in the light of the relationship we were projecting upwards towards our Father on High and that He, in turn, would reflect back towards us in a shower of abundant blessing pouring into our lives below. “A permanent fire shall remain aflame on the altar; it shall not be extinguished” (Leviticus 6:6): it was a twenty-four-hour transmission, on seven days a week, all year long.
Our ancestors’ achievements of health, wealth, and happiness were obtained without any frantic financial wheeling and dealing, without any work accidents, and without the ubiquitous tension and stress casting dark clouds over any accomplishments we manage to finagle during modern times. Thanks to the Beis HaMikdash and the profound exchange of information and connection facilitated therein, our ancestors advanced themselves and our world in ways that we can barely conceive of.
When the future third Beis HaMikdash is built, the fact that all financial success, physical health, and psychological wellbeing comes from what happens in there will be obvious to the entire world. Even the gentile nations will visit the Beis HaMikdash: “It shall be that all who are left over from all the nations…will come up every year to worship the King, HaShem, Master of Legions, and to celebrate the festival of Succos” (Zechariah 14:16).
Today our connection with this extraordinary “technology” is negligible at best. Our connection with our Creator has lost an element of directness, forcing the abundance of blessings He is sending from above to reach us through natural means, and forcing us to undergo great difficulty in obtaining it.
We haven’t entirely lost the connection, though. The Beis HaMikdash was lost many years ago but the Almighty has left us with a small replacement. Synagogues where we pray and study-halls where we learn Torah are called “Batei Mikdash mey’at”. Each one is a miniature Beis HaMikdash. Those who honor these places by using them to invest in their relationship with the Almighty can still taste it: our eternal, indelible connection with the best contact we will ever have, our Father on High.