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The second 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 long … on the land that Hashem swore to your fathers to give to them."

(Eikev, 11:21).

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 Yisroel.

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 drasha (speech).

"Chazal (our 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 behind!"

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 Yisroel.



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