A Weekly Note from Rabbi Sam Levine 2.27.20

At the opening of this week’s parasha, God says, Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him (25:2).  

God then lays out to Moses very detailed instructions regarding the building of the Mishkan / tabernacle and all of its furnishings: Exactly as I show you—the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings—so shall you make it.  

It’s clear that the Mishkan is to be a joint venture – the people put up the capital and the labor and God provides the blueprints.  In the middle of all these instructions, God says to Moses, Then set up the Tabernacle according to the manner of it that you were shown on the mountain. 

Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, former Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, wrote, with regard to this verse,

The design for the tabernacle came from above, but the wherewithal came from below, freely tendered without a trace of compulsion. The creation of sacred space required the consent of those to be served by it. Holiness cannot be fabricated and foisted in the face of massive dissent. The key to drawing God into the midst of a faith community is the personal engagement of its members. The popular voluntarism that enabled Moses to erect Israel’s mobile sanctuary is the operative paradigm for the American Jewish community.

The sentiment hinted at in the Torah, and expressed so clearly by Rabbi Schorsch, resonated with me.  EMJC is our holy space, our tabernacle.  In fact, the most famous verse from this week’s parasha is inscribed over the front doors of our building: V’asu li mikdash veshachanti b’tocham / And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.

As we approach our 100th anniversary, it is time to begin reevaluating our mission and identifying our priorities for the coming years.  This is an “all hands on deck” moment. We have an opportunity to take our “faith community” to the next level; there is a direct, mutual relationship between God “dwelling among us” and the “personal engagement of our members.”  Over the next four weeks, we will be reading about the construction of the tabernacle and the sacrifices that are to be performed there. At the risk of pushing the metaphor too far, we build our community, it requires “sacrifice” to maintain it, but the rewards of the service are immeasurable (i.e. God dwells among us!!).  

At the same time that the WNYC winter pledge drive is going on, I’ll pose a similar question to what radio listeners are hearing all day every day this week: what is EMJC worth to you?  What can you give (time, money, energy, ideas, etc.) that will help build, sustain, and propel us into the future? We have a remarkable community – let us all commit to its continual elevation.  God manifests in the presence of the work we do.

A few announcements and reminders:

THIS COMING WEDNESDAY March 4th, NightShul presents the launch of our Israel series.  Education Director Audrey Korelstein and I will lead an exciting program called THREE SESSIONS, FOUR QUESTIONS: NEW PERSPECTIVES ON ISRAEL.  This will be a presentation of the techniques developed by the Israel Education Project (in conjunction with Makom, the Israel Education arm of the Jewish Agency).  Audrey is a graduate of the program. I am a current participant. THIS SESSION WILL SET THE FRAMEWORK FOR MUCH OF THE FUTURE ISRAEL PROGRAMMING AT EMJC so please make every effort to come out!! 8:00 PM.  Come to minyan at 7:30.

SHABBAT KATAN this week, so spread the word to all your friends who have school-age kids.  Saturday morning at 11:00 AM.

Please vote for MERCAZ in the World Zionist Congress Elections.  Here’s a video you can watch that tells you why it’s so important: https://vimeo.com/377461410

Mercaz (the Conservative Movement’s slate) supports pluralism, equality, and religious freedom in Israel, and as non-Israelis (or Israelis outside of Israel), this is the only way to make your electoral voice heard and have an impact on the direction that Israel takes.  Thus far, between zip codes 11230, 11210, and 11226, only 9 people have voted!! Please take 5 minutes and show the world that we are engaged!!

We greatly look forward to celebrating with Sandy Goldhaber and the Goldhaber family this coming Shabbat as he celebrates his second Bar Mitzvah (if you don’t know what that is, I’ll explain on Shabbat…).

Hope to see you then,

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sam Levine