“How awesome is this place! This is the house of Hashem and the gateway to heaven”. When Yaakov said this, he was talking about the Beis HaMikdash. After the destruction, our Shuls function as our Mikdash Me’ats, our small places of holiness. They are our houses of Hashem, our gateways to heaven.
Our Shuls are truly awesome places. It’s the place that we can have a face to face conversation with Hashem three times a day. It’s the place where we can publicly declare Hashem’s greatness with our Jewish brothers and sisters. It’s the place where we can witness people working selflessly to keep this holy place functioning.
So why don’t we feel it? Why don’t we walk into a Shul and feel “How awesome is this place!”?
It’s probably the same reasons that we generally don’t feel Awe of Hashem. In the “Guidebook to Reaching Awe” (a.k.a. Mesillas Yesharim), the Ramchal highlights 10 deterrents that keep us from reaching adequate levels of Awe.
One of the deterrents is worldly distractions. We’re dealing with a lot of things on a daily basis: our jobs, our finances, our families, our friends, our health, and what exactly are we going to have for breakfast/lunch/dinner today. It’s hard to put those things out of our minds.
A second deterrent is our self-centered perspective. The davening is fast. Or slow. It’s hot. It’s cold. It’s talkative. It’s unfriendly. I want my seat. Don’t sneeze on me. There’s no cholent. That’s our default perspective.
Perhaps when we walk into to Shul, we can start with the thought – “How awesome is this place!”. This is the gateway to heaven. Hashem, the Master of the Universe wants to hear my voice. He wants to hear my problems. He wants to have a deep relationship with little ol’ me. Maybe if we start with these thoughts, we can gently push the other concerns to the side – for a little while. It’s worth a try.