Beyond Room

Jul 11th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays
I just read “Room,” by Emma Donoghue and haven’t been able to stop thinking about what happens when Room opens. Room, totally enclosed except for a tiny skylight, is the entire world of Jack, a five-year old prisoner who lives in Room with Ma. Room has everything Jack needs and desires, and Ma and he use their imaginations to fill their days, until Ma, who has been imprisoned for seven years, wants more for her son and they plan their escape.

I cheered for Jack as he affects their rescue, and was so focused on his experiencing Outside that I wasn’t prepared for how frightening and difficult it was for him to adjust to life outside Room.

Jack insists that Ma take him back to see the storage shed that was Room: “We step in through Door and it’s all wrong. Smaller than Room and emptier.”

This poignant novel reminded me that it is important to reflect on our exile from Jerusalem from the perspective of the people who experienced it, not just the suffering and horror stories, but the adjustment from Room to Outside:

Room opened for the Children of Israel on the 17th of Tammuz, when the Babylonians breached the walls of Jerusalem. Their Room was a tiny walled city; the center of their universe. Kings came and went. Invaders attacked, failed and left. Room remained a magically safe world. Life in their Room could not have been easy. Jerusalem was not in an agricultural area. It was not on any major trade routes. It was Room only because it was Jerusalem, the home of the Beit Hamikdash.

Three weeks after Room was opened, the Temple was destroyed, and Room’s inhabitants were introduced to Outside.

None of us would question whether Jack was better off Outside, with medical care, regular food, clothes, playgrounds, and other people. It’s shocking to read how unsafe Jack and even Ma felt Outside, and yet, we finally appreciate the intense challenge of leaving Room for Outside.

The world opened for the exiles. Their lived harsh and brutal lives eking out a living while their king and armies from far away places would regularly turn their lives upside down. But Jerusalem was their Room, and it took them time to adjust to living a far richer life in Babylon, Persia, and eventually all over the globe.

Life in the United States for a Jew is better than life in pre-WWII Europe. The Ghettos were our Rooms, and it took us time to adjust to Outside. It was difficult to lose Room no matter how harsh a world it was. All the rules are different. They were as confused as Jack about what was real and what was not.

Should we focus on how much we lost when Room opened? Shall we mourn over how much has changed because we no longer have our Room?

I suspect that the Three Weeks of Mourning that begin with the Seventeenth of Tammuz, from the opening of Room till the destruction of the Temple, are for us to focus on our adjustment to Outside: How much of Room did we take with us? Was the loss of Room a painful transitional adjustment to something better? What of Room do we miss?

Are we trying to recreate Room in Outside?

Life in the Jerusalem Room was not a perfect environment, just as Jewish life in the cities and villages across Europe was not paradise. When the walls of our Room were breached, we had an opportunity to consider which parts of Room we would take with us to Outside.

I wonder what I would have chosen to take.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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