01 March 2017
This week’s parasha – Terumah – contains extraordinarily detailed instructions on the construction of the mishkan, the dwelling for God. “Make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them,” said God. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner says about this phrase and what he calls the ‘religious enterprise’ of building sanctuaries: “You have to do something so that God, who is not there, can be.” Why would the Children of Israel be commanded to create a tangible dwelling for an omnipresent Being? The answer, perhaps, is that the physical dwelling/building/Temple/synagogue calls upon us to create community, to behave justly and to treat each other fairly. Such an important purpose requires detailed instructions.
Today, many among us may be wondering where to find instructions for navigating what feels like a new world, as we face a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic acts across the nation and in our community. Bomb threats to JCCs and day schools across the country – including our own sanctuaries of the Bender JCC in Rockville, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School and Gesher Jewish Day School – are taking place with alarming frequency.
Our Greater Washington community has worked hard to build the spaces in which we feel secure – the dwellings that provide comfort, stability and safety for all community members, including our children, our parents and our grandparents. In the wake of threats against our institutions, we must remain alert, aware and vigilant. Collectively, we stand strong against this hatred. And finally, we call upon national and local political leadership to forcefully condemn anti-Semitism and acts of hate against all faith groups.
Just as the directions for building the mishkan were provided by God and followed to the letter, the Torah also provides clear instructions for living our daily lives – even in trying times. We are taught to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The world we construct daily should follow these directions carefully.
That’s why, this week, in the midst of hateful words and actions, I was thankful for a reminder that it pays to Do Good. This past Tuesday, I joined with my amazing colleagues to participate in our annual Staff Good Deeds Day. A dozen of us volunteered at A Wider Circle, an organization with a clear mission “to end poverty for one individual and one family after another.” Others spent the morning creating blankets and scarves for clients of the Jewish Social Service Agency or at the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes. As we look for ways to follow the Torah’s most important directions, I am grateful to my Federation colleagues for their shared focus on doing a world of good – on Tuesday and every day.