chapter of Shema ends with a blessing of longevity:
(If you observe the Mitzvot listed above - Tefillin,
Mezuzot and learning Torah)...
"In order that your days and those of your children will be
on the land that Hashem swore to your fathers
to give to them."
The Talmud (Brachot
8a) relates that when they told Reb Yochanan that there
were elderly people in Bavel, he was surprised, seeing as from the
above posuk (verse) it is clear that longevity is restricted
to "the land" which refers to Eretz Yisroel (the
land of Israel), and not the Diaspora. But when they informed him
that the elders of Bavel would arrive in shul (synagogue)
early to daven (pray) each morning and stay there late into
the evening, he understood that it was through their attachment
to the shul that they merited old age.
The Kli Yakar points
out that the question still remains. For when all's said and done,
the Torah writes "on the land" etc., (referring
to Eretz Yisroel) and the shuls of Bavel were not
in Eretz Yisroel. And what is the significance of being in
shul at early and late hours?
The Kli Yakar
answers this question with a Talmud in Megilah (29a), which
states that every shul is an integral part of Eretz Yisroel.
The Talmud quotes Reb Eliezer, who says that the shuls
in Bavel will one day be relocated to Eretz Yisroel. In that
case, concludes the Kli Yakar, it is correct to refer to
them as part of Eretz Yisroel, and a Jew who davens
in shul is actually standing in the Holy Land. Those people
who lived in the shul, so to speak, and who grow old, are
people who are growing old in Eretz Yisroel.
One of the miracles
that will occur during the final redemption is that all shuls
and batei midrash (houses of study) will be flown to Eretz
The Chofetz Chaim
(Rabbi Yisroel Meir HaKohain Kagan of Radin; 1838-1933) took
this literally, as recounted by a Jew who lived in a small town
where the shul had no floor, just a wooden frame built directly
on the ground. Distraught by this lack of respect, the Chofetz
Chaim came to the town, gathered the people and gave the following
Sages) tell us that all the shuls of the Diaspora will be
brought to Eretz Yisroel when Moshiach comes. What
for? Do you think just the empty building will be taken? Of course
not. All the people that daven in that shul will be
assembled there, and the building with all its congregants will
be lifted up and carried to Eretz Yisroel. But if there is
no floor, the building will go, while its congregants will be left
Needless to say, the
effect was electrifying, and the people fixed up the shul
with lightning speed.
Thus, the Kli Yakar
concludes, whoever rises early to go to shul and stays in
shul late gives more honor to the house of Hashem.
Therefore Hashem "prolongs his days ... on the land"
because it is as if he spends the best part of his days in Eretz
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