Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Terumah

It is hard to have a relationship with someone long distance. I know that the number of love stories that have ended up in tearful breakups could fill every library in the country. I know I had my own. With the best of intentions, we tell our beloveds that even while we have to be apart (job, work, military service, etc) the burning flame of love will not dim. Certainly we can name many couples who survive the distance, but they had to overcome overwhelming challenges to do so. It is not always that someone finds someone else. No, most often when things fall apart it is because we are creatures in need of partnerships and sacred relationships. When we cannot share with our partner on an ongoing basis, we simply lose intimacy with each other. Modern technology helps, but, like I said, as much work as strong relationships take to thrive, long term distance relationships take even more.

Our tradition speaks of our relationship with God as one of intimacy. We welcome the Sabbath Bride. The prophets speak of our marital ties to God. World religions root in the intimacy that God has with humanity, the offspring of which bleeds divine blood. My own tradition posits that every human is imbued with divinity. The human-divine intimacy requires a closeness; an embrace of Heaven and Earth.

God is the essence of everything good. Even an atheist can affirm that a natural order exists that flourishes when we pay attention to maintaining and refining that order. Rabbi Isaac Luria (mystical teacher) taught that God is the source of all goodness, and created us with the intention of sharing this goodness. God created us to receive and actualize this goodness throughout the world.

In this week’s Torah portion, God affirms God’s need to embrace humanity. “Build me a sanctuary that I might dwell with the people.” (Exodus 25:8). The Torah and our tradition posits that God created us for the purpose of creating so intimate a relationship that our spiritual DNA will commune with God’s desire to perfect the world. Driven by love, we will complete the work God started.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We all know this “Golden Rule” that comes through history from every major religion and culture from the ancient world. Of course, the rule presumes that we first understand love, for if we don’t love ourselves, we will not treat others well. Faith roots in love. One cannot claim to love anyone, if one cannot respect everyone. Holding back love to one is holding back. We do not have to agree, but central to the Jewish mission is the command to turn even our enemy into our friend. It requires a lot of love to accomplish this task, or at least not to give up. Our concept of a “Messianic Age” roots in the belief that it will happen when we become as focused on loving each other as wanting to be loved ourselves.

This intimate mission cannot be compromised and so, Torah reminds us that God is not so far off in the heavens that someone has to relay promises or messages to us. God is (as we read every Yom Kippur) right here, in our hands and our hearts. This is never a long distance relationship unless we walk away.

Shabbat is the gift that God gives us, almost as a dowry, a taste of peace, of wholeness, and wholesomeness. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel understood the real world. Decades ago, he acknowledged that life only got crazier and filled with more distractions. He admonished people to take, even if only moments, some time to just renew each week. If we fail to intentionally take some time to experience our sacred partner, we will end up losing any interest in being in love.

This missive is not about religion. I often think that “religion” in the modern day can be more about organizational self-perpetuation than about faith. I pray that we return to faith and to loving our sacred partner, and accept the gift of love and goodness freely offered us, in return. Shabbat Shalom.