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ויירא ויאמר מה נורא המקום הזה אין זה כי אם בית אלקים וזה שער השמים

And he became frightened and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the Abode of G-d, and this is the gate of the Heaven!” (28:17)

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It was the 28th day of Sivan 1930; the crowd gathered to partake in the chanukas ha’bayis, dedication, of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. While it was not the first yeshivah in Poland, it was the most innovative. This was truly an auspicious occasion. The Gerrer Rebbe, zl, the Imrei Emes, was given the honor of addressing the assemblage. He quoted the above pasuk, asking why a redundancy of the word zeh, this, occurs: zeh Bais Elokim v’zeh Shaar ha’Shomayim; “This is the Abode of G-d; this is the gate of the Heavens.” He cited the Baal Shem Tov, zl, who explained this pasuk based on a statement of Chazal in the Talmud Shabbos 31b. Chaval al d’les lei darta v’tara l’darta avid, “Woe (what a waste it is) for he who does not have a courtyard, yet makes a gate for his courtyard.” Rashi explains that the Torah is the gateway through which one enters to avail himself of yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven. Therefore, it is incumbent that fear of Heaven should precede the study of Torah. Yaakov Avinu studied Torah for fourteen years (after leaving home). Now, he has arrived at this holy site (Har HaMoriah), where he was privy to a Divine vision, experiencing the dream of the ladder with Hashem sitting on top. The Patriarch said, “This place is the Abode of G-d. The other zeh, place, the yeshivah of Shem and Ever where I studied Torah for fourteen years, was merely the gateway to prepare me for yiraas Shomayim.”

The Rebbe continued, “The yeshivah is an impressive edifice. Yehi ratzon, may it be the will of the Creator, that it should be both: the gate to the courtyard; and the courtyard. The students who toil in Torah should, likewise, be engendered with yiraas Shomayim.”