Last night, standing here with Gilad, I saw a young man continue to discover how deeply he is connected to his, to our Jewish heritage. Speaking last night, I spoke about integrity. Looking at the first reading Gilad read from the Torah.
וְעָשׂ֥וּ אֲר֖וֹן עֲצֵ֣י שִׁטִּ֑ים אַמָּתַ֨יִם וָחֵ֜צִי אָרְכּ֗וֹ וְאַמָּ֤ה וָחֵ֙צִי֙ רָחְבּ֔וֹ וְאַמָּ֥ה וָחֵ֖צִי קֹמָתֽוֹ׃
They shall make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.
וְצִפִּיתָ֤ אֹתוֹ֙ זָהָ֣ב טָה֔וֹר מִבַּ֥יִת וּמִח֖וּץ תְּצַפֶּ֑נּוּ וְעָשִׂ֧יתָ עָלָ֛יו זֵ֥ר זָהָ֖ב סָבִֽיב׃
Overlay it with pure gold—overlay it inside and out—and make upon it a gold molding round about.
(שמות כה, יא) מבית ומחוץ תצפנו אמר רבא כל תלמיד חכם שאין תוכו כברו אינו תלמיד חכם
The verse states concerning the Ark: “From within and from without you shall cover it” (Exodus 25:11). Rava said: This alludes to the idea that any Torah scholar whose inside is not like his outside, i.e., whose outward expression of righteousness is insincere, is not to be considered a Torah scholar.
This text teaches the importance of integrity. We cannot just speak of our values, but we must live them. While none of us are perfect, we must strive to uphold our values, even when it is challenging. In studying and speaking with Gilad, I have been deeply encouraged and challenged. Here is a young man who believes strongly in the Jewish principle of preventing tzar ba’alei chaim, suffering of living things, who chooses to eat and live his life focused on ensuring the well-being of this world.
Exodus 25:2 reads: דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כָּל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ תִּקְח֖וּ אֶת־תְּרוּמָתִֽי׃
Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.
As we stand here this morning, in this magnificent sanctuary, I think about the gifts that we offer. What do we bring to our tables? What do we bring to one another? What do we bring to GD?
Parshat Terumah is an incredible parsha for an artist, an architect, a design student, a fashion designer or anyone who works with fabric. Yet, even if those skills are not in our toolbox, the first lines are powerful. They remind us that EVERY single human being has something to offer. WE all have gifts to share. Yet, we cannot give them until our heart moves. We need to open our souls, open our eyes, open our hearts.
Looking at our traditions, at our commentators, I see Rashi clarify that the gifts are not just for Gd, but to honor Gd’s name. Nachmanides, the RambaN, teaches that the people Israel, themselves are the gift. Ibn Ezra notes that the gifts are voluntary (from the root nun-dalet-vav).
RambaN’s teaching elevates this parsha. It is not just the physical gold, silver, fabrics, that are the donation, but the people Israel. By celebrating Gd’s name, we elevate our souls. By living our Jewish lives, we find a sacred connection, giving each day, each moment meaning. No matter where we come from, we are able to offer from ourselves, to come closers to the Holy.
In Jewish tradition, we speak of the Mikdash Me’at, the small sanctuary. In contrast to the large mikdash, the large holy place described in this parsha, we speak of our synagogues, our study halls, and even our dining room tables as these holy, small sanctuaries. By choosing carefully the designs of this beautiful space, we transformed a room into a sanctuary. We turned concrete and wallpaper and carpet into a holy space. The same can be true at home. Through design, through prayer, through conscious eating, we change our table from a place of physical sustenance, to one of spiritual sustenance. We live not to eat, but rather eat to live.
As I have gotten to know Gilad, he has inspired me to consider my own eating habits. What are the choices that I make with food? How do they reflect my values? In the recent days, I found a new Hebrew volume to study, called Shulchan Shel Arba--a table for four--written by Rabbenu Bahya in the early 14th century, and recently translated by Rabbi Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus. In a 2011 article in the Jewish Forward he wrote:
“Shulhan Shel Arba” reveals that meals can elevate our relationships with one another and the world around us, by cultivating our relationship with God. It develops in both imaginative and very concrete ways the famous Jewish idea that the dinner table is a “mikdash me’at” — a “mini-Temple.” Like the Temple service, the table’s purpose is to help people have a relationship with each other and with God. And that’s exactly what this book has done for me: it has deepened and elevated my most important relationships with other people, and through them, with God, through the physical and sensory experiences of food and through talk at shared meals.
R. Bahya sensually describes the words to be said at a meal, like blessings and food-related Torah discussions, as if they were the smells and sights of aromatic oils and smoke wafting up to the heavens at the altar of the Temple. Likewise, he discusses how the physical gesture of raising the ten fingers of your hand up for washing before a meal (netilat yada’im) kinetically turns your attention upward. The upward motion is key. R. Bahya has you imagine energy flowing up from your ten toes through your body, through your ten fingers, reaching up to connect back to their Source, the ten Sefirot (the kabbalistic symbolic terms describing God). What we see, say and sense at the table should stimulate our imagination.
Read more: https://forward.com/food/135671/making-your-dinner-table-a-temple/
As Jews, we are blessed with the opportunity to find the sacred in every day life. Through offering blessings, we fill our lives with gratitude on a daily basis. We discover the possibilities of a meaningful, fulfilled life. Living with integrity AND gratitude, ready to share our gifts with Gd and the world, nothing can stop us!
Blessing for Gilad:
Gilad Amir--Your name’s meaning of a treetop on a hill, may sound solitary, but it describes someone with a powerful sense of self. It speaks of living a life of integrity in a world that does not always value truth. May you continue to speak truth in your daily life. May your choices bring blessing to you.
Gilad, you are someone who knows the importance of gratitude. The years to come are sometimes filled with tumult and tsurris. They are a time of discovering and proving our identities to ourselves and others. May you hold fast to your Jewish values as you grow. May you find joy in USY, Hillel and Israel experiences. I pray that you will continue to hold fast to your empathetic and empathic nature, that you continue to feel deeply and help support this world.
Finally, as you grow, may you know the support of those around you. We are here for you--not just to celebrate today--but to be with you on the journey ahead. We have walked in your paths and are ready to walk with you. We are ready to stand with you. Take our hands, continue to embrace your heritage and keep asking great questions. I pray that your life will be filled with only blessing and simcha, and when the challenges come, you will find opportunity. Shabbat shalom!