Friday, February 28, 2020

Holy Times and Places

Tonight is the twenty-fourth annual SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA program, sponsored by NJOP (National Jewish Outreach Program). Tonight, SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA is being celebrated in hundreds of locations across the United States and Canada. 

This Shabbat we read the Torah portion known as parashat Terumah, which launches the second half of the book of Exodus. The mystics (Nefesh Ha-Hayyim 1:4; Sefer Habahir) suggest that the construction of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was meant to mirror God’s creation of the universe. On the first day, God created the heavens, and the Children of Israel were told to construct a “covering” for the Tabernacle. On the second day, God separated the upper waters from the lower waters and the Children of Israel were told to create a partition between the “Holy” and the “Holy of Holies.” On the third day, God “gathered the waters,” while the Children of Israel were told to construct a water basin for washing. On the fourth day God created luminaries to provide light; the Children of Israel were commanded to make the Menorah/candelabra. On day five, God proclaimed “Let there be fowl that fly over the earth,” while the Children of Israel were told to place “cherubs with wings spread upward” upon the Ark of the Covenant. On the sixth day, God created the human being, and with regard to the Tabernacle, God commanded Moses to, “Draw close Aaron your brother.” On the seventh day, the Torah states that “The heaven and the earth were finished.” As the Tabernacle was completed the Torah declares, “All the work of the Tabernacle was finished.”

While Shabbat represents a weekly slice of “sacred time,” the Tabernacle describes “sacred space,” where God’s contracted Presence is manifest in this world. On every Shabbat we celebrate sacred time, and remind ourselves that, just as God ceased creative activity on the seventh night and day, we become Godly when doing the same every seventh day.

In the book of Bereshith (Genesis), God created our world. In the second half of the book of Shemot (Exodus), the Children of Israel are given the task of creating an appropriate place for God’s world in the mortal realm.

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