- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On February 19, 2021
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast HERE.
Let’s build something magnificent together. We have been separated and will remain so for whatever time it takes to make sure we are safe. We long to hear one another’s voices rise in unison and harmony in prayer and song. We want to celebrate and to console in the presence of each other. Our longing comes from the depth of our souls for we know how nurtured and strengthened we can be.
Soon. But not yet.
Perhaps we can find comfort In the ancient Israelite experience.
Slavery, Freedom, Torah, Tabernacle.
Such is the story of the Jewish people in Exodus so far.
As slaves, the people toiled even as they constructed garrison cities for the Pharaoh. They had no choice. The tyrant saw no humanity in their efforts. He stole their labor.
Moses led the people to their freedom through the miracle of the parted waters. Torah would await them farther into the wilderness. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, they recognized they would have a role in fulfilling what God would instruct them. “We will faithfully do!” they declared.
As last week’s portion ended, Moses disappeared into the cloud on top of the mountain. The people awaited his return. In that haze, God had a plan for the people.
They would build again. Together.
This time, however, it would be for a sacred purpose and would bring meaning to their lives. God instructed Moses on the mountain to inform the people to construct a sanctuary out of gifts the people would bring. Rather than forced labor, the act would be from their heart. As the commentary, Etz Hayim notes, “one who gives receives something in return…the sense of self-worth. The name of the portion is Terumah. Though translated as gift, it means, elevate. The people needed to be elevated in their ability to offer what they had without force. Through their participation in this building project, their labor, as a reflection of themselves, has great significance.
Let us recognize that God asked for a sanctuary, the Tabernacle, translated as Mishkan in Hebrew. It would travel with them throughout the wilderness as the seminal reminder that their contribution mattered greatly. It involved not just the structure but, perhaps, more importantly, a guarantee of communal spiritual life that would bring them together. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (z”l) wrote: The building of the Tabernacle was the first great project the Israelites undertook together. It involved their generosity and skill. It gave them the chance to give back to God a little of what God had given them. It conferred on them the dignity of labor and creative endeavor. It brought to closure their birth as a nation and it symbolized the challenge of the future. (Covenant and Conversation, Terumah, 5781)
We, too, look into the future and see magnificent possibility. We will reassemble as a communal endeavor. We will build and rebuild, just as the ancients did, to ensure that our inner lives will find the sustenance we need and celebrate in the presence of one another.
In the meantime, Zoom is the blessing we have before us. See you there.
- Join us tonight for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Following the service, we will share another virtual oneg. We can pray together HERE on the Temple Israel website, or HERE on Zoom, or even HERE on TI’s Facebook page. Or, just find it all on the website www.tisrael.org/TogetherWithTI .
- Tonight at 5:00 p.m. our littlest congregants join for Tot Rock Shabbat. Join us on Zoom here
- Torah Study engages everyone. We start with a short Shabbat morning service at 9:00 a.m. with Torah reading and then launch into a provocative discussion. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom HERE. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
- Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat takes place at 10:00 a.m. Join us on Zoom here.
- Join us at 8:00 p.m. for Havdalah as we welcome the new week together, followed by a meditation led by Rabbinic Intern Andrew Oberstein. Join HERE on Zoom, or watch along on the website HERE, or on Facebook HERE.