Torah from around the world #204


Rabbi J. Gendra-Molina

, Ph.D., M.H.L

One might think that the long description of the measurements and the details of the construction of the sanctuary do not deserve much of our attention. If so, it would be better to meditate at length on one of the opening verses that frame our reading for this week: “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). Nevertheless, the Torah devotes many lines to it and therefore it leads us to believe that aesthetic considerations related to religion are important.

This importance of aesthetics –

Hiddur mitzvah

– is the reason why those who came before us engaged themselves into building beautiful synagogues and complex community structures. They did this based on the model for the construction of the Mishkan.

Obviously, the construction of the Mishkan had a cost in money and materials. Similarly the maintenance of our synagogues and communal organizations needs your donations and contributions.

Someone may ask: “What does the community for me?” If we analyze the model of the construction of the Mishkan we will realize that this question is out of focus because the Mishkan, as today’s synagogues and communal organizations, are not build “for me” but rather to meet the needs of everyone and most importantly to do God’s work, Tikkun Olam and Gemilut chasadim. Our communities are above all places of encounter with the Divine.

But not only! Even those who do not attend frequently, who do not “benefit,” also take pride in the good name of the congregation or the community they belong to because it reflects – in one way or another – on all its members. For those who attend regularly, beyond the yearly dues, the community offers them the possibility to build up relationships, giving full meaning to the name Bet Knesset, the house of meeting for all Israel, where we can feel the Divine Presence. And as everyone knows, such a religious experience has no price tag.

Our ancestors engaged themselves building a Mishkan where the Divine Presence could dwell among them. Similarly it is necessary for us to build spaces and well structured organizations to meet with God and to be partners with and all this requires preparation, contributions and a sustained effort.

When people asked the Kotzker rebbe “where is God?” He replied: “God is … wherever we allow Him to enter.”

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