Terumah 2016 - תרומה 5776

Post date: Feb 10, 2016 8:29:25 AM

Dear Haverim,

This week's Torah portion is Terumah - roughly, an offering. Via Moses as messenger, God asks the people for offerings in order to build the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The Tabernacle is a holy space - a place around which people will be aware of God's presence. People contribute their possessions to a common good and thereby, make them holy. Furthermore, when the people are in the midst of that holy space, the people themselves will feel a sense of holiness.

I am reminded of a story I learned as a child about a barn-raising. A farmer's barn had burnt down, and shortly after, his neighbors all came around to pitch in with lumber, tools, and their hard work. By sundown, the community had built a brand new barn where the old one once stood. Imagine for a moment, that farmer's sense of gratitude every time he entered that barn. Imagine those neighbors who never mentioned it because, after all, it would be unseemly to do so, and yet, the utter satisfaction they must have felt, as it was the right and blessed thing to do for a friend in need.

This is the meaning of the Terumah. It is a gift that, once dedicated, changes from ordinary to holy. It elevates the recipient, and by doing so, elevates the donor as well.

In Ohel Avraham, every week at services, we experience this beautiful phenomenon of transforming the ordinary - the profane - into something that is holy, when we convert the ordinary room 375 into our sacred place of worship.

The blessing for washing hands, "netilat yaddayim" is not actually about washing hands. It is about elevating the hands such that they may be prepared for the sacred task of blessing our food - essentially, addressing God in gratitude for our sustenance. This, in turn, makes the act of eating a holy (i.e. special) act.

We may both infuse and draw a sense of appreciation and wonderment for every act we do.

It works that way with people, too. When we respect and cherish the people around us: our friends, family, or colleagues, or even when we smile at a stranger, we elevate them, and having done so, we often feel the satisfaction and eventually, the sense of elevation ourselves. This is how our mitzvot (commandments) help us to become a Goy Kaddosh, a Holy People.

I pray, in the coming weeks, that we make choices which have the power to elevate both ourselves and the people around us.

Separately, this coming Shabbat (13 Feb) has been designated Scout Shabbat. We are very lucky that our own Paula Popper has a prominent role in the local Boy Scouts region. During our services, we will honor young Scouts in the company of their mentors and their leaders.

Please make a point to come this Shabbat, 9:30-noon, so that our Scouts feel the support of a community that loves them. A pot luck vegetarian/dairy dish to pass would be highly appreciated, and could be your own Terumah for the occasion.

Carrying on, this Monday, Feb 15, 7-9pm, you are welcome to attend a program at Nazareth College's Casa Hispana, cosponsored by Hillel and Casa Hispana, about the Sepharedim, the Jews of Spain. There will be a brief lecture, music, and light refreshments. Park toward the back of the Arts Center parking lot. Casa Hispana is one of 3 houses back there.