My son was on the lookout the minute the plane touched down in Israel. I could see the ignited light in his little four-year-old eyes on the entire car ride from the airport as he viewed the Holy Land for the first time. He was a tiny man on a mission, to see the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Jewish Temple, he was always hearing about.
He learned in school the common Jewish notion that each mitzvah (good deed) a Jew performs adds a "brick" to rebuild the destroyed Temple. And he was expecting to see the third Temple in the process of being rebuilt, brick by brick, mitzvah by mitzvah. You can imagine how his face fell and heart was broken when we arrived at the site of the Kotel, the Western Wall.
“Mommy, this is it?”
“What do you mean this is it?”
“Where is the Beit Hamikdash? All I see is a wall Mommy, where are the bricks we have been working for, where are all the extra bricks?”
“They are coming precious child, someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, they are coming.”
But my answer wasn’t enough. He stood transfixed, woefully unsatisfied, hoping somehow that the bricks would miraculously appear. When they didn’t, he wandered around, the only one moping at the Kotel during the precious moments of our short visit there.
“Mommy, where are the bricks?”
As we took trips around the country the question remained on his mind and he would ask at the most random of places, “Mommy, where are the bricks?” as if they would somehow float to the top of the Dead Sea or materialize on Masada.
Finding the Bricks
And then came our trip to Yad La-shiryon at Latrun, the tank museum known for its diverse collection of tanks and armored vehicles. It was a hot day and we clambered into the various tanks on display for people to explore and sit in, going through the motions of what all tourists do there as we secretly hoped to catch some shade. Finally, my husband gathered together our five children to go and see the long, engraved, memorial wall dedicated to the soldiers of the IDF tank units that were killed defending the Jewish homeland in various wars.
My husband told the children how the site’s very location is actually rooted in history. It was the place where Yeshoshua Bin-Nun made the sun and the moon stand still during the war of the Israelites with the Amorites. It was the place where the Maccabees finally won the battle against Antiochus and drove his army into back to the sea. And in more recent times, it was the place where the armored unit known as the 7th Division fought to open the roads and free a besieged Jerusalem during the War of Independence.
My husband explained how every brick in that memorial wall was a representation of the mesirat nefesh, self-sacrifice that the soldiers who had died during the wars had given to defend the Jewish homeland to bring us one step closer to being a unified nation with our own country. The bricks – huge cement slabs connected together to create the wall – signified how these soldiers, through their incredible bravery, had helped our nation be strong.
My older kids were so transfixed that I barely noticed my four-year-old son, whose eyes shone even brighter than on the ride from the airport. I was listening so intently to my husband that I almost missed the small voice at my side as my son looked at each cement slab “brick,” scanning the names of the fallen soldiers.
“Mommy, this is it! We found the bricks! These are the bricks for the Beit Hamikdash!”
It brought tears to my eyes. Somehow, his soul had understood something so deep on this very spot where soldiers throughout Jewish history, from the time of the Tanach onward, had died glorifying God’s name, defending the Jewish homeland and helping us take steps towards our destiny. I could see the radiance on his face. He had found it – the bricks that showed him that God’s promise of redemption was on its way.