It was one of those pretend cell phones (it even had a slide out keyboard!) that my three year old son slung across the room, narrowly missing my father’s head as it whizzed by. Despite the fact that it played annoying music and had no volume control, I had bought it the day before as the “pull-it-out-if-my-son-is-about-to-lose-it-on-the-plane” toy.
I reasoned that even the most annoying toy cell phone still sounds better than the sounds a small boy, who’s been trapped on ten hour plane ride to Israel, could make. The toy was a hit with all my kids, actually, and they showed their enthusiasm by fighting over it. Perhaps he was jetlagged when the idea to throw it came into his head, but honestly, my son doesn’t need an excuse for thinking up crazy things. (“Mommy, can we crash our car and kill it?” asked my son as I picked him up from pre-school one afternoon last month.)
Since we’ve discussed the “no throwing things that are not balls” rule on more than one occassion, my boy did not need a warning before his punishment. His toy was promptly given a time-out and put up on a high shelf, out of his reach. And not surprisingly, as soon as he lost it, he wanted it back more than ever.
As we walked through the Old City of Jerusalem later that day, I tried explaining to my younger daughter why we no longer have a Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple), and the incident with my son came to mind. “What happened when your brother mistreated that brand new toy? The toy that I searched and searched for and bought just for him, just to make him happy?” I asked my daughter.
“He lost it,” she replied.
“Exactly,” I said. “And that’s what God did with us in terms of the Beis HaMikdash. We didn’t treat the specialness of our relationship with Him properly. And so He took it back and is making us wait, in a time-out of sorts, until we change our behavior and earn the Beis HaMikdash back.”
“But why is there that other temple where the Beis HaMikdash used to be? Why did Hashem let someone else build there?” my daughter continued.
“Well,” I explained, “your brother was very upset when I took the toy away from him and nobody had it. But imagine how much more upset he would have been if I let you play with it, and all he could do was watch you enjoy it as he sat on the side having no fun. Perhaps, Hashem did the same thing to us in order to inspire us even more.”
Our sages say, “In [the month] of Nissan [the month of Passover] our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt, and in Nissan we will be redeemed.” May our “time-out,” which has lasted for far too long, finally motivate us to learn and grow, and merit to earn back that precious gift which we lost.