V’Etchanan- A love letter

The World’s Measure by Laya Crust

Last week we were in a state of mourning, remembering the many calamities that have fallen upon the Jewish people. We mourned the destructions of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and our subsequent 2,000-year exile. Following Tisha B’Av we enter the Seven Weeks of Consolation. This Shabbat is called “Shabbat Nachamu” or The Shabbat of Consolation.

This week.s parashah, V’Etchanan, is a letter of love from Gd to His people. We hear the Ten Commandments for the second time (the first being in the Book of Exodus). We read the Shema- the prayer we say three times every day. At the end of the reading are these beautiful words, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your Gd. The Lord your Gd has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession.  The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.  But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your ancestors…” (D’varim 7: 6-8)…

These texts are all gifts to us as a people. They reinforce dignity, respect for others and for the land, and the concept that we are not anarchists. We are responsible to a higher force, Gd, Who insists on respect towards nature, humanity, and all creation.

The haftarah is from the book of Isaiah. In this haftarah, Isaiah’s words rang with optimism and made many allusions to nature. Isaiah spoke of God’s greatness and how He renews the world. He assured the Jews that God would return them to Israel. The text mentions the peaks and the valleys of nature which parallel the heights and the depths of life, experience, and history. This haftarah is called “Shabbat Nachamu” meaning the “Sabbath of Consolation”. It is read on the Sabbath following the fast of Tisha B’Av.

The painting reflects Isaiah’s words, [Gd]“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and measured out heaven with a span, and meted the dust of the earth with a measure, and weighed the mountains with a scale and the hills with a balance”    (Isaiah 40:12)   

I hope you also see these texts as messages of love, of Gd’s promises to us, and His patience. May we see the fruition of the promises- peace in Israel- the land promised to us, and respect of all people to others.

Shabbat Shalom, Laya

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Emor and 12 Challahs

Priestly Vestments – by Laya Crust

This week’s haftarah contains the words of the prophet Ezekiel. He reminds the Cohanim of their responsibilities and describes the clothing they will wear when they serve in the rebuilt Temple of Jerusalem. This painting shows the High Priest in his robes. In the background text are two archeological finds believed to be part of the High Priest’s ceremonial wear. One is a tiny gold bell, the other an ivory pomegranate.

The Torah reading mentions the duties of the Cohanim and rules about ritual purity, marriage, and funerals. The parashah also refers to ceremonial bread. On Shavuoth, “You shall bring from your towns two loaves of bread as an elevation offering; each shall be made of two-tenths of choice flour, baked after leavening, as first-fruits to HaShem.” (Leviticus 23:17) Two chapters later, we read that twelve loaves of bread were baked each week. “You shall take choice flour and bake of it twelve loaves… Place them on the pure table before the Lord in two rows, six to a row… He shall regularly arrange them before the Lord every Sabbath day—it is a commitment for all time on the part of the Israelites.” (Leviticus 24:5, 6, 8)

The painting below shows the special table for the twelve loaves of bread on the left-hand side.

Sacred Vessels- Laya Crust (Golden vessels from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Based on a medieval Spanish illumination from 1299 Perpignan, Aragon.)

Aaron, the High Priest, was responsible for lighting the ceremonial lamps: “Aaron shall set them [the eternal light]… [to burn] from evening to morning before the Lord regularly. It is a law for all time throughout the ages.” (Leviticus 24:3). The painting above shows the seven-branched menorah that Aaron lit.

As a Jewish woman who regularly bakes challah and lights candles every Friday night, connecting our weekly Shabbat practices with our biblical text is beautiful. There are interesting traditions about the shape of challahs for different holidays and celebrations like the “shissel challah” after Pesach, the “ladder challah,” the “hand challah,” and more.

Here is a classic challah recipe from Carole Cohen in Skokie, Illinois, that you may enjoy.

Carole’s Challah ……………………..yield: 2 challahs

1 pkg. of yeast……………………….1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 cup warm water

5 cups flour……………………………..1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon oil …………………….approx. 1 1/2 cups warm water

Soften the yeast and sugar in 3/4 cup warm water- it should start “bubbling.” Sift together flour and salt. Add oil, yeast mixture, and beaten egg. Mix thoroughly, adding about 1 1/2 cups of warm water for smooth kneading. Knead well. Place in a bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let stand for 45 minutes- 1 hour until it doubles in size. Knead again. Cover, let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Divide the dough in half. Divide each ball into three pieces, roll into strips, and braid. Place on a large cookie sheet or pan (covered with parchment paper if desired) for 1 hour. Just before baking, brush with diluted egg yolk. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired. Bake at 350o F until golden brown, 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Below is a delightful youtube video. Einat ben Ari demonstrates different ways to braid decorative challahs.

Here is another challah braiding video from “Jewlish.”

We turn our home into a place honouring God and our traditions on Friday nights. In our own small world, we carry on the sanctity of the Shabbat candles, the Shabbat bread, and Shabbat observances.

Have a safe, healthy, and relaxing Shabbat- with delicious challah.

Shabbat Shalom, Laya

News about the upcoming book, ILLUMINATIONS, will be coming soon! The book includes 82 paintings plus commentary created for the haftarot of the year. I can’t wait to share the details with you !!

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Shemini and Separation

Flames of Division by Laya Crust

This week’s parashah deals with differentiation and separation. We are experiencing an unprecedented break in the functioning of the world which is forcing terrible separations from family and from homelands. I will explore the division described in our texts and tie it in with life’s experience.

In the first half of parashah Shemini we read about the sacrifices that Moses and Aaron offered to God. In the second half of the parashah we read about which animals are kosher (acceptable for Jews to eat) and which are treif (not acceptable for Jews to eat).

Aaron and his sons had spent weeks purifying and spiritually readying themselves to perform important sacrifices. The offerings were accepted. Dramatically, God’s fire consumed the sacrificial remains, and His flames ascended to the heavens.  In a moment of religious fervour Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu offered their own (unholy) fire to God. In anger, God sent down flames that killed the two men. It was a shocking and tragic incident.

Following this distressing event, the Israelites were told which animals were kosher and which were non-kosher. The two narratives are united by a phrase at the end of each of the 2 sections. Aaron and his sons were tasked with being able לְהבדיל בּין הקדשׁ ובין החֹל ובין הטמה ובין הטהור – “to separate between holy and common, between impure and pure.” Later the Israelites were told what they could eat and what they could not eat. They were “to separate between the impure and the pure”, לְהבדיל בין הטמה ובין הטהור. 

The phrases of separation are obviously very important, and fire is used in Torah as a means of separation. HaShem formed a pillar of fire to light the way of the nation of Israel in order to separate and protect them from their enemies as they traveled through the desert. We, ourselves, use Aish (fire) to separate Shabbat from the rest of the week. We light candles before Shabbat begins and at Havdalah when Shabbat ends. So, to restate, Aish or fire is used as a device to divide and separate.

Fire is mysterious, beautiful, and threatening. If flames come too close they are dangerous- destroying and killing what is in their path. It is a contrary force and ambiguous one. We need fire for light, for warmth, and in historical times humans needed fire to protect themselves from wild beasts at night. And yet this protective force can suddenly, without warning, rage out of control.

Separating and differentiating, “לְהבדיל”, creates awareness. In this Torah reading, we are told to be aware of our dietary choices. The dire punishment of Nadav and Avihu reminds us to be aware of the sacredness of HaShem’s commands and words. Boundaries create awareness. Without boundaries all things are equal. With limits, there is greater focus and the focus makes everything more precious.

The world is experiencing a time of separation. The dangers of COVID-19 and Omicron have forced us to separate from others in order to keep ourselves and others safe. Putin’s aggression against Ukraine has caused devastation and separation. This is a time to recognize our unique set of religious guidelines and use our strengths to balance the evil around us. Separation allows us time to reflect on what is necessary and what is unnecessary. Let’s use this time wisely and make our lives and the world better.

Be safe, be well, be healthy and be kind.

Laya Crust

I created the painting for “Flames of Division” (parashat Shemini) for a collaborative exhibit called “The Women of the Book.” The fifty-four paintings in the exhibit can be seen at https://www.womenofthebook.org/artwork

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Purim pop-up

EPSON scanner imageart by Laya Crust

Here we are approaching the most raucous holiday of the year. Revelry, costume and indulging with wine or something stronger is encouraged on Purim. Not only is it it encouraged, we are told we have to increase our joy.

The story of Purim is a tale of treason, love, lust, hatred, bad guys, and good triumphing over evil. There is a great explanation of it at http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday9.htm. There’s also an interesting analysis of the comparison of the Esther story and the Joseph story at http://learn.conservativeyeshiva.org/purim-esther-and-joseph/

Some of us are busy making costumes for the Purim parties and some of us are making hamantaschen. Hamantaschen is from the Yiddish words “Mohn” and “tasch”. “Mohn” means poppy seed and “tasch” means pocket. What a revelation! (for more info about hamantaschen go to The History and Meaning of Hamantaschen – Peeling back …  )

This year,5782 or 2022, Purim starts Wednesday, March 16, and continues the next day, Thursday March 17.  We celebrate the holiday with reading the Book of Esther (the Megillah), dressing up in costume, giving charity and sharing food with our friends Wednesday night and and Thursday, unless we live in a walled city like Jerusalem and then we celebrate Purim the next day, but that’s another story.

Rather than discuss the megillah I am presenting you with an arts and crafts project. Here is a pop-up Purim card you can make with your family, your class-  if you are a teacher-, or your buddies.P1110245

Start by printing the picture below on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper: We’ll call it ” Model 1″

EPSON scanner imageFold the sheet in half lengthwise, with “Mordecai”  towards you.P1110232

Take your page and cut along the solid black line at the base of the carpet Mordecai and Esther are sitting on. Stop when you get to the corner of the carpet. Then take your scissors out and cut along the thicker black line at the top of the carpet, up Mordecai’s arm, around his head, and back down his side until you get back to the edge of the carpet. Cut through both halves of the paper. Do NOT cut down the side of the carpet – only cut where the black outline is thick.P1110236Now you have cut the figures of Mordechai and Esther.

Fold the page in half widthwise. The message Purim Sameach (in Hebrew) and English will be on one side and all the painting will be on the other.

P1110248Fold the page as shown above. Then turn it back to the picture side.
P1110241Pull the figures gently towards you.  The figures should extend out and the rest of the card folds in the opposite way. I hope that makes sense to you. Make this card and send it out to your friends and family, or enjoy it yourselves. You are welcome to share the instructions with anyone you want. And- if you are a teacher, this can be a great Purim project with your class.

On another note: This year we are witness to the violent invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russian forces. The situation is not the same as the situation in the Persian Empire 2,500 years ago. At that time Haman, a court official, made plans to assassinate all the Empire’s Jews. Queen Esther, a secret Jew, exposed Haman’s horrifying plan and stopped it. There is a surprising parallel between Ukraine today and Shushan from 2,500 years ago. President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish. Previously his religion was not a focal point in his life or career. Now he is using his connection to Jewish history and Israel to inspire the Ukrainian people. His strength and integrity have unified Ukraine. He has inspired international support for Ukraine and condemnation of Putin’s aggression.

We all hope that justice and strength will prevail, and the evil aggressor will be vanquished.

Have a great Purim, and remember to “Share” this post with your friends.

Purim Sameach, Laya

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Vayikra

Abandoned Altars by Laya Crust

This week we read the first parashah in the Book VaYikra- the Book of Leviticus. Vayikra means “and He called”. It commences a series of instructions God gives the Israelites concerning sacrifices. The theme of Leviticus is one of holiness, and holiness is described in different forms throughout the book.  (note: “Leviticus” is a Latin word meaning “from the Levites”)

Isaiah lived and prophesied in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. At the beginning of his life, both kingdoms were successful and prosperous. During his lifetime the Northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed.  The Southern Kingdom of Judah barely survived a takeover by Assyria.

At the time of this haftarah the Jews are in exile. They are worn down, defeated, and turn from God to worship idols. Isaiah calls to them telling them that God notices they have abandoned the altars and sacrifices and they have stopped worshiping Him. Instead, they are offering sacrifices to man-made gods. God tells the Israelites He will not abandon them.  He says, “Even as I pour water on thirsty soil and rain upon dry ground, So I will pour My Spirit on your offspring”.

In my haftarah painting at the top of the page, I show a willow tree by a river. There are sheep grazing in the fields, sacrifices burning in the background, but abandoned altars overgrown with grass in the foreground. In the text, God says, “And they shall sprout like grass, Like willows by watercourses…”

Interestingly many scholars think the Book of Isaiah was written in more than one section. Dating back to the 12th Century Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra was convinced that chapters 40 – 66 were written by one or more prophets who lived in exile in Babylon, after the destruction of the Southern Kingdom. That would have been about 150 years after Isaiah died.  This second section is often called “Deutero Isaiah” or “Second Isaiah”.

This haftarah is a very beautiful, poetic composition. I hope you’ll read it and enjoy!  Shabbat Shalom.

Laya

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Pikudei-Sacred Vessels

This week’s haftarah describes how King Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant to the Temple in Jerusalem. The parashah describes the crafting of items for the Tabernacle. It also describes the clothing that was sewn and woven for the priests.

Bezalel was the chief architect and designer, “and [he was] filled … with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding and in all manner of workmanship, to contrive works of art…” (Exodus 30: 3). All the Israelites were invited to participate in building the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. The only proviso was that they had to be “wise” or “willing hearted”. Those trusted with creating the holy space needed spiritual depth and understanding beyond the average individual.

Sacred Vessels by Laya Crust

This illustration is based on a manuscript painting from 1299, Perpignan, Aragon. Solomon ben Raphel created the illumination featuring sanctuary vessels. The first painted panel features the twelve shew breads prepared weekly in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. In the central panel are two gold cherubim protecting the two tablets with the ten commandments, a staff, a jar with manna, and Aaron’s flowering staff. The third panel shows a lit menorah and tools for handling the ashes.

God understands the importance of beauty in life. In the midst of the wide expanse of desert and rugged mountains, He gave detailed instructions to create a place of beauty where people could focus their thoughts and prayers. True beauty has a foundation of wisdom and goodness. To that end, Bezalel and his assistant Aholiav were imbued with wisdom and understanding.

As we go forward in life let’s remember to be wise-hearted and introduce integrity and beauty in order to elevate our lives and battle the sorrows and tragedies around us.

Laya

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A Giving Heart

Tzedakah by Laya Crust

This Shabbat is the Shabbat preceding the first day of Adar II and is called “Shabbat Shekalim.” A section from Ki Tissa is added to the regular Torah reading. The reading describes how the Israelites were required to contribute. “….This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight—twenty gerahs to the shekel—a half-shekel as an offering to ‘יה… You shall take the expiation money from the Israelites and assign it to the service of the Tent of Meeting; it shall serve the Israelites as a reminder before ‘ה as expiation for your persons…” (Exodus 30:11-16) We also read a special haftarah.

King Jehoash reigned in Jerusalem from 896-736 BCE. The haftarah describes how he directs the priests to collect donations for repairs to the Temple. The priest Jehoiada crafts a “tzedaka” box by boring a hole into a wooden chest. The Jews can put their “shekels” into the boxes when they go to pray. This event from almost 3,000 years ago is the template for charity boxes used throughout history.

The illustration shows a collection of tzedaka boxes from around the world. From left to right – a “pushke” (charity box) from the synagogue of Rogazen, Germany, rescued in 1938; a  silver alms box from Austria, 1843; a Magen David Adom box; a Keren Kayemet box; a stone charity box with Ladino inscription from Valencia, Spain,1319; a Jewish National Fund box, circa 1950; a Rav Meir Ba’al haNes box from Israel in the 1960’s; a  Hevra Kadisha ceramic jug, Moravia, 1776; a sterling silver charity box, Austria, 1900.

The parashah and the haftarah both deal with giving and creating. If we give with an open heart the gift and the result are beautiful. If we build with beautiful intentions the structure or craft will also be beautiful.

This week’s reading is Vayakhel and describes the workmanship for the Mishkan. The two quotations in the painting below are from the parashah:  “Take from among you an offering of the Lord, whoever is of a willing heart let them bring it…” (35:5)     “And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing of heart.” (35:22) The sparkling watercolour wash behind the quotations represents imagination and spirituality.

Va Yikahel sig
Inspired Workmanship by Laya Crust

In the previous Torah reading, “Ki Tissa,” we read about the sin of “the golden calf”. Just to remind you, Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God and bring them down to the Israelites below. When Moses didn’t arrive at the expected time the nation grew worried and anxious, fearing that something bad had happened. They demanded a god, an idol,  to pray to. Breaking off their jewellery they fashioned a golden calf. The nation was punished by God. The golden calf was destroyed, and three thousand men were killed.

In this week’s Torah reading, Moshe invited all the people, whoever was generous of heart, ” נדיב לבו,” to bring forward gold, silver, brass, dyed linen and goats’ hair, wood, oil, spices, and precious gems. All these materials would be used to craft holy objects for the Mishkan. The items to be crafted were listed and described, and the people came forward with all that was requested. The magnificence is described close on the heels of the sin of fashioning the golden calf. 

Phrases like “wise-hearted”  and “willing of heart” appear 15 times in this parashah. Only wise-hearted and generous individuals could see past the expense and glitter of the materials through to the purpose of prayer and service to God. Those who are wise and generous can understand and facilitate the elevation of spirit.

The painting is based on a  beautiful and timeless illumination from 1299, Perpignan, Aragon. 

Image result for 1299, Perpignan manuscript illumination

The illustrations I made that you see here are part of the collection of Haftarah Scroll paintings in the Haftarah Scroll of Beth David, a synagogue in Toronto. We are currently working on a book that will include all the illustrations, and it will be coming soon!

Have Shabbat Shalom- one full of beauty and joy and giving.

Laya

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Ki Tissa: Heights of Faith

Humanity
From the “Bereisheet Series” by Laya Crust

In this parashah, we read about extremes of faith. Moses received the last of God’s directives while on Mount Sinai. He came down the mountain to the sound and spectacle of the Israelites praying to a golden calf, an idol.  In disgust and anger, Moses destroyed the precious tablets God Himself had written. Soon after there was an interaction between God and Moses where Moses was almost taken to the heavens in terms of spiritual closeness. The parashah ends with another presentation of the Ten Commandments.

This is a profound narrative. The previous Torah portions recounted God’s directions for building a beautiful “Mishkan” (portable sanctuary). The clothing of the Kohanim- the priests- was described in great detail. God was well aware that the Israelite refugees craved extraordinary beauty to help achieve a level of awe and observance.

In this parashah, Moses went up Mount Sinai alone and disappeared behind a column of fire and cloud for 40 days and 40 nights. The people had been warned that Moses would be away for over a month. But like most people, B’nei Yisrael found it hard to believe that their aged leader could survive the dramatic conflagration. So Moses came down to witness singing and dancing around the Golden Calf.

Ki Tissa sig
The Priests of Baal by Laya Crust Illustration for the Haftarah

When Moses disappeared the people decided to create their own beautiful focus of prayer, the Golden Calf. God’s punishment was severe. Three thousand men were killed for the sin.

Moses had devoted his heart and soul to saving B’nei Yisrael from slavery and leading them through the desert. The demands on him were huge – leading them physically, judging them, and negotiating with God on their behalf. He acted as arbitrator time and again between them and God when they transgressed certain orders. Now, as righteous as he was, Moses asked God for something more. He asked to see God.

God put Moses into the cleft of a rock. According to the text (Ex. 33: 22), God protected Moses from seeing His face but allowed Moses to see His back. Moses was a transformed man. The experience took him to the greatest spiritual heights. Thereafter rays of light shone from his face.

This section of Torah is fascinating. It leaves us with a number of thoughts to ponder- the burden Moshe carried and the fact that he waited so long to ask God for greater closeness and identification. The text presents the heights of receiving the word of God on a mountaintop contrasted so quickly by the weakness of His people. This story underlines the fractious yet extraordinary relationship we have with God. Moses couldn’t see God’s face and neither can we, but God encourages us to get closer. God allows those who desire it to get closer through our prayers, meditations, and actions.

My husband, Les Lightstone, mentioned an interesting point. God didn’t show Moshe His “face”. He showed Moshe His back. In the same way, we cannot see what our future will hold or what God may do. We can only see what has happened, look “back ” on it, and learn from our past.

Have a Shabbat Shalom. May it be one of peace, health, and an appreciation of beauty.

Laya

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Tetzaveh: Temple Visions and Garments

Priestly Garments by Laya Crust

This week’s Parashah, Tetzaveh, describes the High Priest’s ceremonial robes. Details of the weavings, the breastplate, the gold bells, and tiny pomegranates fill the imagination with colour and texture.

In the previous Torah reading, Terumah, God outlined all the materials to be donated and collected to build the Mishkan. The Mishkan, a portable place of worship, would be crafted with exquisite textiles, gold, silver, and brass instruments. This week’s haftarah from the Book of Ezekiel also describes a place of prayer.

The prophet Ezekiel, the son of a Cohen, was among the 8,000 Jews to be exiled to Babylon in 597 BCE. He wrote the words of this haftarah while in exile. Ezekiel says that God carries him to the land of Israel and places him on top of a very high mountain where he sees something like the structure of a city. A man, seemingly made of brass, gives Ezekiel a tour of the future Temple.

Titzaveh
Temple Floor Plan by Laya Crust

We read detailed descriptions of each element to be measured and positioned. The illustration above is based on a rendering of Solomon’s Temple from an illumination in an early 12th C. German manuscript. It shows the Temple’s floor plan. All the sacred objects in the floor plan seem to lie on the floor. I used the manuscript drawing because it is so unusual and delightful. It is a charming way for the viewer to see the Temple artifacts. The manuscript is currently in Vienna, Austria in the National Library.

The Jews were miserable. It was the 25th year of their exile in Babylon. God gave Ezekiel an incredible amount of information about the next Temple to share with the Jews. Hearing about the future Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews were optimistic that they would indeed return to their homes. A provision accompanied the details and plans. The Temple would only be restored if the Jews were repentant and corrected their behaviours and observances.

We will fast-forward almost 2,550 years. Under Jordanian rule, Jews were forbidden to pray at the Western Wall from 1948 until 1967. When Israeli forces liberated Jerusalem in 1967, Jews were once again free to go to the Kotel, the only remaining wall of the Second Temple. We don’t have a Third Temple, but we have a unified Jerusalem, and we can pray at the Kotel. This remnant of the Temple should be a place of acceptance and harmony, and it should be a place where all Jews can speak to God in their own way.

As always, let’s pray for peace and harmony.

Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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Terumah: Giving

Building a Temple by Laya Crust

This week’s blog is in memory of my mother, Dorothy Crust. Devorah bat Mordechai haCohen v’Rachel Leah was a woman imbued with beauty, wisdom, intelligence, and love of Judaism. This week’s parashah deals with building a home for God and introduces the concept of giving with an open heart. My mother z”l gave with an open heart and strengthened the community around her. Her memory is a blessing.

This week’s parashah is called “Terumah”, which means an offering, denoting something set apart as a donation. God says, “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me contributions; you shall accept contributions for Me from every person whose heart so moves him” (Exodus 25:2). The wording is precise, “אשר ידבנו ולבּו”. “Those with a willing heart” are invited to contribute to the building of this important sanctuary. The building materials are to be given with generosity and joy rather than coercion or compulsion (like taxes and levies.)

Up until now, the Children of Israel have been entirely dependent. They were slaves in Egypt, and they did nothing for themselves in the desert. They were given manna, water, and led each step of the way. Finally, the Children of Israel are invited to do something for themselves and God. They step up to contribute energy, creativity, and materials to create a community hub.

In a functioning society, people are responsible for themselves and others. They must come forward to help things run smoothly. People give when they feel they have enough for themselves and enough to share. Whether helping with small tasks or major undertakings the contributor is empowered to share. When giving or sharing, you are forging a link with the person receiving. The recipient, in turn, is strengthened and can give to others.

When God asks B’nei Yisrael to build the Mishkan, He invites them to become partners with Him. God says, “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם׃ (Exodus 25:8). The words “shikhanti” (I will dwell), “Mishkan,” and “shekhinah” (Divine Presence) all come from the same root word, which is found in the Hebrew words for neighbour, neighbourhood, and dwell. God wants to be a constant presence among the people and knows that human beings need visual reminders and beauty to awaken a joyful soul. “Neighbour” is in the word for God’s holy dwelling, and “neighbour” describes God’s Presence.

The bottom line of God’s message is, “Be involved. Don’t be a spectator.”

In this parashah we see the emergence of a group that is growing into a cohesive community. They will combine their materials and skills to make a mishkan, a sanctuary. God does not live in a building, but rather in the hearts of the builders. As He said, “Let them make Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8).

Have a Shabbat Shalom, Laya

P.S. The painting at the top is based on a ketubah from 1853 Istanbul, Turkey. It shows boats floating on the Bosphorous River. If you want to enlarge the image at the top of the ketubah below, you can click on them.

istanbul ketubah02

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