Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – P’kudei

We make a big deal over whether people show up in a house of worship sanctuary for prayer or not. The regulars look at the “Once or Twice a Yearers” and somehow cannot the miss opportunity to point out their regular absences to them. I know in my heart that pointing the finger with this accusation only serves to make some folks feel ambivalent (at best) about showing up even once or twice a year. No one, to my knowledge, who gets shamed, ever feels good about coming back.

According to the Torah, it took only 30 verses for God to build our home (the Earth) and create us. It has taken chapters and chapters of Torah since, to build and dedicate a home in which God can dwell amongst us. The Tabernacle sits amid the encampment and provides the light and the gathering place for all the people. The project of building and its dedication take place in this week’s Torah portion. That said, even while the structure exists, it takes us the rest of Torah, Talmud, and everything since, to find ways to create places for us to dwell with God.

The Tabernacle represents a place of warmth in our lives; a spiritual warmth. It is not just the sanctuary of a house of worship, but the garden where we meditate, the ocean boardwalk where we celebrate the infinity of the water’s horizon, or the place where a child, grandchild, or favorite pet rests on our chests and brings us calm.

We represent the altar’s fire with the eternal light over every ark in every synagogue. Nearly every Christian denomination uses a flame in its logo. The flame is the fire burning on the altar of our soul’s commitment to justice and righteousness.

The ritual of sacrifice has been replaced with our monetary offerings to keep our houses of worship vibrant, but to do what? In Torah, the offering at the altar is non-judgmental (people bring their best – however large or small). The offering doesn’t keep the lights on, it keeps the fire burning; feeds the hungry and the needy in the community; supports leadership who dedicate their lives to the mission of repairing the world.

The only guilt offering that Torah demands is for something that someone has done damage to society, yet our default is to demand a guilt-offering when someone does not act in ways which is best for them to act.

Here is my heresy. The tabernacle in the wilderness was a portable structure. It traveled with people as they journeyed through life. The Tabernacle and its altar’s fire continued to compel people to show up; not show up in this sanctuary or that one. Rather, it compels us to show up and make our place, any place, a sanctuary of love and service where we work to heal our relationships, our communities, and the brokenness in the world around us.

The room we call the sanctuary in a house of worship is holy only if we bring holiness into the room; it cannot be found in the brick and mortar, only in the soul’s longing to make heaven and earth touch. Imagine a gathering in that room or any room where this spirit pervades. Imagine that in acknowledging the root and catalyst of spirituality begins with the individual, we gather to welcome, holidays, the Sabbath, or every day intent on living our dream of peace and not just reading or singing about it. Shabbat Shalom