This double portion brings us to the end of the Book of Exodus. We are overwhelmed by the details of the construction of the mishkan, its furnishings, the work of Betzalel and the elaborate clothing and trappings of the priesthood. At the end, Moses saw all that had been done and he blessed it (39:43) The mishkan is completed!!
These passages have great relevance to us right now. There is a growing sense of concern and even greater discussion about the role of the brick and mortal building as the pandemic ebbs. Questions abound as to the issue of how may people, now used to virtual access to worship and education, will choose to return to the edifice. We know that the future will most likely be a sort of hybrid arrangement allowing for the return of in person community as well as maintaining, or even enhancing, our electronic spiritual footprints. Jack Wertheimer, in a recent article in the on-line magazine Mosaic, wrote on the question “How Will Synagogues Survive”? He traces a wide series of responses from rabbis and laity and Jewish professionals on the challenges that are emerging as a result of a year of isolation and virtual community. He writes of the challenge to our community from people have have become accustomed and accepting of this new reality.
“Having discovered the joys of screening prayer services asynchronously, when it suits their schedules, they will not be so quick to return to the more synchronous services. For all these reasons it is widely assumed that there is no going back for synagogues that have shifted their services on-line, even if they resume in-person prayer”. (Mosaic. Feb 1, 2021)
What shall be the role of the physical building? Have we become used to more “at-home” celebrations? Will congregations need to re-fit each room and sacred prayer space so that everything will be available either in person or virtually? How will this emerging truth impact the definition of membership and what a “community” will mean? All of this is emerging. We all shall need to consider this new reality. Will every synagogue now need to have a functioning technology committee and a vice president of technology and even a staff person whose job it will be to create, monitor and train for this new reality?
Rabbi Richard F Address