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Tarshat Teruma - Building the Mishkan

02/13/2024 05:48:19 PM


Rabbi Rudin

A Message for Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month

Can you imagine a situation in which you make a donation to a worthy cause - only to be told, no thank you?  We have enough?


That’s what happens when the Jewish people, in their first collective action, builds the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, the traveling sanctuary that embodies G-d’s presence in the midst of the Jewish people.


In this week’s Parsha, Teruma, Moshe is instructed to ask for donations of gold, silver, bronze, fine linens and wood, precious stones, spices and oils - only the best and no stinting!  Indeed, if you calculated the cost of building the Mishkan in today’s prices, the total would exceed ten million dollars - a lot to ask perhaps from a bunch of refugees and former slaves!


But the donations come pouring in in impressive numbers.  Everyone wants to help out in creating the sanctuary.  Gold for the Ark, incense altar, table and Menorah, Silver for the implement, bronze for the sacrificial altar, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and more for the breastplate and more, the donations just don’t stop and the generosity and desire to help are boundless.


And then something strange happens.


G-d tells Moshe enough.  No more needed for the project. 


You can imagine how those people who had been procrastinating on donating felt!  They’d missed their chance to establish a place for the Divine… oy vey!


The message to us is clear:  When you have the chance to do a Mitzvah - go for it and don’t delay!  Good intentions are great - but good actions are better! 


But more than that, perhaps the message is one of not just giving for the sake of giving, but giving for the sake of achieving a well-defined goal.  A goal set by the designer, not the donor. 


In my own rabbinic service, I had believed that my contribution would involve education - helping folks access the incredible spiritual treasures of their heritage. Talmud, Midrash, prayer, ritual and perhaps most of all spirituality, meditation and mining texts for meaning.  That is the area where I feel most comfortable, most knowledgeable and most competent. 


And to a degree, I have been able to serve in this way.


But the design that G-d showed me, the needs that I have confronted, was different.  Not education as I see but it as engagement: not bringing Jews to where I think they should be but to where they actually are, to where they want to be and to where they want to go, to creating a community that speaks to them in their own matrix of meaning and not mine is the holy work that I have been called to do.  And the holiest work of all is to support during times of greatest pain and greatest need. 


Creating a community where all are welcome and all ways of connecting to Judaism.  I am the donor giving all of my power, energy, creativity and devotion.  But G-d is the designer.  G-d has told me to leave my comfort zone, to learn skills that not only was I lacking but that I never imagined being able to gain.  My flaws and failures have goaded me forward knowing that it is not my design but a higher design at work through my broken and so imperfect aegis.


That is the Torah’s message to me this week.  We are each called to a different purpose - not necessarily the purpose we had envisioned, but indeed we are each called.


And in the end, it comes together for form the Beit HaMikdash, the sacred community where we can all make that numinous declaration: Shema Yisrael, HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem Echad 


We are One so that together, we can express and fulfill the love and justice that is the unity of humanity and above even that, the Unity of the Divine.


Let us build- all of us, all abilities, all disabilities, all of us together.


Shabbat Shalom

Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784