The Torah portion this week is Terumah/Offerings. In this section of the book of Exodus the Torah records the various instructions necessary for the building of the Mishkan – the portable Temple carried by our ancestors throughout their desert wanderings. This building, once complete, became a focus for the community and a symbol of God’s presence among the people.
The rabbis of old looked at the structure of this portion and discovered something rather intriguing. Just as the story of the Creation unfolded in six days with each of the six sections beginning with the phrase, “And the Lord said. . . .”, so, too, do the instructions for building the Tabernacle unfold in six sections with each of the six beginning with the identical phrase. In this case the phrase is, “The Lord spoke to Moses…”
There is, however, an additional similarity that ties the two texts together. For just as the story of Creation ends with a statement about the Shabbat – the day of rest – so, too, do the instructions for the building of the Tabernacle end with a mention of Shabbat.
And I could not help but wonder, “Why would both the process of the creation of the world and the process for the creation of the Tabernacle culminate in a statement regarding the importance of Shabbat? What is it that ties together the creation of the world and the building of the Tabernacle?
One suggestion is that the parallel structure is there to suggest that the building of the Tabernacle represents the culmination of a second creative process worthy of note – in this case, the creation of the Jewish people.”
“More than Jewish people have kept Shabbat,” taught the great Zionist thinker Ahad Ha’am, “Shabbat has kept the Jewish people.”
The construction of the Tabernacle gave our ancestors a PLACE to gather as a community. That is why, when commanding its construction, God states, “build me a Tabernacle that I might dwell AMONG you.” Having a place to build community was, however, insufficient. The people might also needed a TIME for community. It is for that reason that the instructions for the Tabernacle ends with the importance of Shabbat.
And so it is today. Our building provides a physical location for creating community. That is not, however, enough. We also need to make the time to come together. So whether it is this week or next . . . or two weeks from now . . . I invite and encourage you to make time for Shabbat with your community. Come to sing. Come to give thanks. Come to learn. Most of all, come to connect. For it is through connection to other members of our community that, as in days of old, God’s presence can dwell among us.
Shabbat services tonight begin at 7:30 PM in the Gellis-Green Chapel.
Rabbi Cohen’s Torah Class tomorrow is at 8:15 am.
Minyan service tomorrow begins at 9:15 AM.
We will celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of Benjamin Fuhrman, son of Julie and Michael Fuhrman in the Bass Sanctuary Building tomorrow morning at 10:15 am and the Bat Mitzvah of Allison Schweidel, daughter of Michele and Bob Schweidel in the Gellis-Green Chapel at 10:30 am.