Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19) The “Gift” Of Our Own Experience

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            What does it take to build the sanctuary? This week’s portion will instruct you, in great detail, on the building of God’s house in the Wilderness. This reflects the Temple in Jerusalem, we think, and there is much to discuss regarding the architecture, the engineering, and the placement of this portion in the Torah.

            The portion begins with the instruction to bring “gifts” to create the sanctuary, a building that will allow God to dwell among the Israelites. There are many comments about this concept, especially relevant today given the changing nature of Jewish life, as to the need for a building to meets God’s presence, or if that feeling is available anywhere, at any time. No doubt some discussion at your weekly Torah study will look at this.

            But it occurred to me that we may also wish to look at this idea of a gift, the gifts that are to be brought by each according to their ability. What gift do we bring as we get older to these discussions. For some observers, the elderly become invisible, and the “gift” of our presence can be cumbersome. What I suggest we consider this Shabbat, is the gift that we can bring to our family, community, and congregation of the years that we have lived and the experiences that we have shared.

            A great sadness of so many of our institutions is that the collective wisdom of life experience of elders is so often ignored. I recently was doing a session at a congregation as part of a scholar in residence visit and we observed that the collective wisdom and experience of the people in that room could total centuries. They have lived history, experienced life and overcome a myriad of challenges that so many younger people face with trepidation and concern. Why not allow these generations to learn from each other.

            We pay the price of ignoring the past. We all know that. Think about the elders in your congregation or organization and what they have lived through and what lessons of life they could transmit to the younger generations. Is that reservoir of experience being harvested or ignored? Afterall, look at Torah and be reminded how often when Moses was confronted with a challenge one of the instructions were to gather the elders and seek their input.

            We bring the gift of that experience to every synagogue and organization. How often is it honored and shared?

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Richard F Address

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