The Book of Exodus concludes this Shabbat with the double portion Va’yahel-Pekudei (Exodus 35 ff). We see a reminder of the instructions for the “Mishkan”, the bringing of “gifts” to help in this process, the introduction of Bezalel as the master craftsman and assorted additional descriptions of ritual practices. As I was looking at this portion, I was struck, really for the first time, by a verse or two at the very beginning. In Exodus 35: 4-9 Moses assembles the community and speaks to the community saying that God commanded “take from among you gifts to God, everyone whose heart so moves him shall bring them–gifts for God gold, silver, and copper, blue, purple and crimson yarns, fine linen and goats hair, tanned ram skins, dolphin skins, and acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and the aromatic incense; lapis lazuli and the stones for setting, for the ephod and the breast piece”. Quite a menu of elements for the middle of the Wilderness.
Look at the verse that reminds us that the gifts are to be brought from those “whose heart so moves him”. A comment refers to the fact that this does not mean just material gifts, but the gift of one’s heart and soul. But also look at the colors involved. What can that mean for us? Ask what colors our lives?
How do we bring color and passion into our own existence? As we travel around the country engaging with Boomers and such, this comes up a lot. How can we live a life that brings engagement, color, verve in to our lives? How do we choose to live life and not just exist? Do we choose to bring the gift our own self and soul to living–no matter what number the age is–instead of merely existing? Each of us know people from both camps. Those people who choose to live, live a life that is “colorful” and engaged. Those are the people who remind us that there is so much life to be lived, so many things to do, issues to engage and experiences to be shared. They “color” their lives with all shades of living.
This revolution in longevity that we hope to live provides us with unique and new possibilities to experience stages of life that, heretofore, were largely unknown. Again, if we are able to survive the wild cards of health and time (neither of which we can control), life provides us with new possibilities. If each of us is, as some would interpret, a symbolic “mishkan”, then we can ask, as we grow older, what colors represent our lives? In the on-going process of creating our own sacred space, how do we fill it? That is a question that, I suggest, can be derived from these verses in this week’s portion. What will be the colors of our lives as we move forward? What we choose may well speak to how we see our own self and soul.
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.