Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Health Dose of Torah–Terumah

Torah’s first set of 10 commands happens in the first verses of Torah. Contrary to popular thoughts, we do not have to wait until the Mt. Sinai experience to hear about God’s expectation for the world. God said, “Let there be light.” God expected that light would happen, and it did. Over the course of the Genesis “Chapter One” creation story, God will speak ten commands. Ten spoken commands created the entire world, as the forces of nature and the elements of the universe jumped at each time divinity spoke.
Torah teaches us that it took little effort to create the magnificence of our world. This text speaks metaphorically, but the point is that the puzzle piece all came together; there were no distractions, disputations, or discriminations to get in the way.
Fast forward to the current week’s Torah reading. Simply to build a place in which God could dwell (on the earth created by ten statements), it took an “Act of Congress.” God had to give 92 commands, in this portion alone, just to build the Tabernacle (a portable structure that was supposed to be the traveling reminder that God is always with us).
Of course, in the interim between the creation of the world, and creating a place safe for God to rest with us, the text teems with human distractions, disputations, and discriminations. Building the Tabernacle should have served as the rallying focal point, returning all people from their exiles from each other and from God. Everyone encamped around the seat of the divine presence, and even as the people traveled through the wilderness, they recreated this same communal structure wherever they stopped. No sooner was it completed, though, than the wars started that even further divided the people. Moses faced internal rebellions and external attacks. We revered the Tabernacle but ignored its call to community and unity, each tribe did as it pleased and each nation sought its control over others. Fast forward 3500 years, it has gotten no better.
10 acts to create the world. We missed something important, along the way. We see it play out in horrible ways. In just our country, the “bastion of freedom, security, and democracy,” we exist in a fractured nation. Whatever one’s politics, no speaks with each other, they scream at each other, as if winning the political battle is more important than governing for all our people.
The distraction of “winning” takes precedence over even our safety and security. Yesterday we witnessed the 18th shooting in a school this year and the 30thmass shooting over the last month and a half. 6572 gun violence incidents have been reported and verified this year (2018). How many went unrecorded or unnoticed? It took one potential shoe bomber to make everyone remove their shoes before getting on a plane. One lot of laced Tylenol made every manufacturer create extra “sealing” in all product packaging. And … no control of guns or violence.
At the beginning of the Torah portion, God exhorts Moses, ask people to give gifts from their heart. From these gifts, we will build the place where God can dwell. A gift from the heart holds greater ultimate value than a gift motivated by ego, status or power. Our Tabernacle is our nation; our schools are the farms in which we grow the next generations of leaders. We perpetuate the myth that we are a faithful nation, as those who lead simply ignore the shooting of over 400 of our children in the last month and a half. Why were they shot?  They happened to be attending school … if you will, worshipping at the tabernacle of hope? How do we sing songs and read words, calling ourselves prayerful, make tithes and go about our business? How can the uber-religious voices of this nation continue to support legislators who offer prayers of condolence to victim families, and also prayers of thanksgiving that it wasn’t their own children, and then do nothing to respond proactively?
It is time to be people of faith, to call on our leaders to pay attention to our hearts that bleed, being far more important than our egos that only drain. It will take a lot of work, but the tabernacle of freedom needs to be rebuilt, and God needs us to do it.
For all who argue that this conversation does not belong in a house of worship when you come screaming at God when your loved one was shot; when you ask me to preside over that gut-wrenching funeral … it becomes a matter of faith. Shabbat shalom.