by Hazzan Jacob Sandler
In this week’s parasha Terumah, we read a verse which has become fairly well known. Exodus 25:8 reads, וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָֽׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם: “ve’asu li mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham.” “And they shall make for Me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell among them.” The Mishkan and its successors the Beit HaMikdash and the modern synagogue became emblematic structures that represent “G-d’s House” or G-d’s dwelling place. However, that’s not what the text says. G-d doesn’t say ‘make Me a sanctuary so I can dwell in it’ but rather, G-d will dwell in us.
So there’s two lessons I see in this: One is that Judaism can’t be solely confined to a building. It has to live in us! G-d, tradition, ritual and values that are the foundation of Jewish life should be alive in each of us, and taken with us wherever we go. As we read each morning in the second paragraph of the Shema – b’shivt’cha b’veitecha uv’lecht’cha vaderech – when you’re at home and when you’re away. Wherever we go, G-d’s presence and our Jewishness should dwell in us. And we bring that presence to the rest of the world through our deeds–mitzvot, study, and acts of chesed (kindness).
The other lesson is that we still shall make for G-d a Sanctuary. It is true that we must go out and live our values, and it is important that we have a Sanctuary–a structure that allows us to gather and bring our individuality to the collective. The Mishkan was transportable, allowing us to be at home and away at the same time. Now we have more permanent buildings where we come together for prayer, study, mitzvot and community. We should, when we’re comfortable to return, continue making our Sanctuary by filling it with song, joy, comfort and each other. It is so crucial to create physical spaces for spiritual moments. This way, there’s a designated place where G-d’s presence can come alive for us–a place where G-d can live. And just like many of us are looking forward to leaving our homes, let’s not keep G-d’s presence confined solely to the “Houses of G-d.”
When we read parshat Terumah this week, let’s remember to create spaces for spirituality where we can gather and also bring the Presence of G-d with us there and everywhere we should happen to go. Let us make for G-d a sanctuary, so that G-d can dwell in each of us.