In Exodus 25:1, God tells Moses to tell the Israelites to bring “gifts” to God from every person “whose heart is so moved”. This begins this somewhat technical portion that focuses on the construction of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. As many historians tell us, this is reflection, a reading back into history of the Temple in Jerusalem. Be that as it may, the details of the construction occupy the heart and soul of the portion. Yet, those first words, teh idea of bringing a gift, how can we look at that?
There have been many comments on these opening passages. The idea of free will offerings being brought to God. There is also the famous phrase of God discussing the building of the Tabernacle, “so that I may dwell among them”, and not in it. I have no doubt that your rabbi will be speaking t o some aspect of this during the coming Shabbat. So, let me reflect on another possible way of looking at this passage.
The word gift is a special one. What is a most precious gift that we have been given? A gift that becomes more precious as we age? Time! Maybe this command is or could be: as we get older and the reality of our own mortality becomes more real; maybe we should reflect on the greatest gift we have been given; time. Think about it. What a wonderful gift we have been given. Time becomes more precious as we get older. We become more aware of the fleeting, and often arbitrary nature of this gift. We see it taken from friends and family members, often in ways that make us anxious. We see our children and grandchildren continue to grow and develop and we speak those all too familiar words; “where did the time go?”.
There is a not so subtle shift, for many of us, in how we see and use our time as we age. For many Boomers, this is a time of reinvention and re-imagining what we wish to take from life. It is a time to “give back” to society. It is a time, for an increasing number of us, not to sit back and be quiet; rather it is becoming a time to be re-involved with society. The fragile nature of time, and how we choose to understand it, is one of the evolving challenges for us as we get older. We come to realize that this is a most precious gift, a gift over which we have no control. This, to seek meaning and purpose within the context of our time becomes one of our greatest challenges. In doing so, we often seek the spiritual and thus, in a very real way, build a “mikdash m’at”, a small sanctuary within each of our souls.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.