An epic enterprise began when Chabad from Argentina received approval from the La Rural exhibition center to produce an avant-garde theatrical production, Aventura en el Templo (Adventure in the Temple) on the Buenos Aires site. It usually takes four to six months to prepare for a theatrical production. Chabad from Argentina only had four weeks to bring his vision to life.
Remarkably, Aventura en el Templo turned out to be a runaway success. As word spread, some 14,700 Argentinian Jews of all stripes flocked to witness the one-of-a-kind performance for ten days.
At the end of July, Chabad of Argentina generally takes advantage of the midwinter holidays in the southern hemisphere to educate the Jewish community on the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple). In 2014, they built a scale model, which was transported to schools and educational institutions each following year, to educate children and adults on the Second Temple. The Covid-19 changed that. With the country entering a strict lockdown, any form of in-person programming was out of the question. “As the lockdown entered its second year, we turned the problem created by the pandemic into creative inspiration,” the rabbi said Tzvi Grunblatt, director of Chabad Argentina. “We knew we had to do something in person that families could enjoy without exposing themselves to the virus. “
Usually, the La Rural exhibition center is bustling with activity in July. Since 1866, the site has hosted an agricultural and livestock fair attended by hundreds of thousands of people each year. But the Covid-19 left the room deserted. Seizing this unique opportunity, Chabad approached La Rural with a crazy idea: to host a theatrical performance behind the wheel in the unused space. Although initially skeptical that Chabad could assemble all the necessary components in such a short timeframe, the venue ultimately accepted the proposal. At that point, Chabad had just four weeks to prepare before the start of winter vacation on July 19.
Rabbi Levi Silberstein, alongside his wife Mme. Etti Silberstein, led the production team. “We had to create the set design, script, actors, logistics, communication plan and a million other things from scratch,” Ms. Silberstein said. To achieve this, they had six workshops that worked around the clock. Aventura en el Templo Producer Maxi Bartfeld worked with thirty-five people simultaneously to design and assemble the five different stages on which the show would take place. Bringing the Beit Hamikdash to life was made easier by the scale replica Chabad had on hand. “Rabbi Levi Silberstein called us in and gave us a crash course on Beit Hamikdash to help us understand space and choose how to explain it,” recalls the artistic director. Belén Sánchez.
As the physical scenes came together in the twenty thousand square foot facility, and the playwright Flor Yadid donned an original script, Chabad launched an aggressive marketing campaign for the event. There was advertising in the popular daily La Nacion and on the radio and on social media. Most of the families who flocked to the show were drawn to word of mouth.
When the first vehicles entered the “time machine tunnel” leading to the 2:00 pm show on July 19, the broad social spectrum of viewers was evident. BMWs pulled up alongside specially hired taxis, the latter filled with enthusiastic families who could not afford a car.
In groups of six, the cars emerged from the tunnel as the neon staff asked them to park in a semi-circle facing the first stage. Listening to the show’s sound system via FM radio, viewers followed the exploits of a fellow “time traveler” named Toby as he learned about the rituals and rhythms of daily service in the Temple. .
Whimsically, Toby explains that he turns to Google for spiritual guidance, before learning that the Temple is a better place to find a spiritual connection with the divine presence. With a cheeky smile, Toby bounced from stage to stage, leading viewers to the Ezrat Noshim (Women’s Gallery) through a massive reconstruction of the Nicanor Gate and down to the temple courtyard itself. All the while, Toby learns about daily service in a humorous and dramatic account of the “Avoda. “Finally, he arrives at Heichal, the “holy sanctuary” itself. Here, well-staged video screens guide him through Judaism’s most intimate shrine, the Holy of Holies.
A key theme woven throughout the script is the message that we each have our personal Temple within. When the narration speaks of Menorah, the golden candelabra housed in the sanctuary, he stops to elaborate on the symbolism of the flame. “A little flame burns within each of us, but in order for it to burn, we need fuel.” The narrator’s voice explodes: “The fuel of our inner light is the good deeds and mitzvot we perform. The thirty-minute show ends dramatically at the Kotel, or “Western Wall”.
The technical obstacles related to the coordination of the five stages turned out to be enormous. Each scene lasted precisely six minutes to synchronize the five groups of cars circulating in the building. The twenty-five actors who created the performance replayed their scenes continuously from 2:00 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. each day. For two weeks, cars continued to pour in. Popular demand for the show prompted the showrunners to reopen for a final round late on a Saturday night.
The show left Argentina’s Jewish community in turmoil. An enthusiastic mother wrote: “It was like Disneyland in Argentina! After attending the show, Mrs. Nuria alma said it made him relive his family’s trip to Israel years before. “That’s all we’ve been talking about all day. We got home and spent the day browsing our trip photo albums, ”she said. The show left a lasting impact on her and her family. “It touched our hearts and I can’t imagine the huge difference it makes for so many families in the community. “