The Mishkan is the focus of this portion. Moses calls together the Israelites, issues detailed instructions as to the creation of the Mishkan, and calls Bezalel and “every skilled person” to take the gifts from people and begin the work.
As you would expect, there are numerous commentaries on the portion and the meaning of the Mishkan. I just completed a very interesting series of teaching weekends at congregations across the USA. Literally from coast to coast; small under 300 members to mega-congregations of thousands. In each, in their own way, the community that people were a part of was a topic of much conversation and intense feeling. These were people who have chosen to give the “gift” (terumah) of their time and person to the building and maintaining of their community. Each of their hearts were moved to be there. It was not about theology, rather it was all about the relationships that they had forged and maintained. Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, in his new book on Mordecai Kaplan, reminds us that “All of us, regardless of age, gender, status, are necessary for any community to survive and thrive” (“A Year With Mordecai Kaplan” Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben. JPS. 2019. p. 84)
The value of community and relationships was present at every stop. The age group of the attendees of our sessions were all over 50 years of age. Relationships, to us, are primary in our life. The synagogue, the religious community, remains the central institution for the transmission and continuance of community. In a Jewish world that is, to say the least, in flux and transition, the synagogue remains the key address for creating and maintaining sacred human relationships. And it is these human relationships that allow for the various pathways to our relationship with the Sacred. The detailed instructions for the building of the Mishkan can be seen, thus, as symbolic language for us today. What this portion may also be trying to teach us is that what we bring to our community does determine the type of community that we have. Each of us, in our own way, seeks community. As we have said many times, as we get older, community and relationships become ever more precious and important. To channel the portion, each of us is called upon to bring what we can bring, our own special gift, to make a community. This is our challenge.
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.