Honorable Mensch-ion


A UCLA sociology student interviewed me recently about the sustainability of synagogue life. She asked how our community lives out the Jewish values of sustainability. My answer came from this week’s parsha, Terumah: “Let them make Me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.” The Torah does not tell us that God will dwell within the actual sanctuary. Rather, God will dwell among us. God does not need a sanctuary; we need one. Jewish sustainability begins when we create a sanctuary for our community to dwell within. I explained to this college student that we are obligated to pray within a community, and only then do we create a sanctuary of souls.

The Talmud teaches that before the Israelites built the golden calf, God dwelt among them, but when God became angry at them, they would say: “God will never return to us.” What did God do? God said: “Let them make Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” Entering our sanctuaries is a reminder of what we must do when we exit those doors. Have we transformed the physical sanctuary to the spiritual sanctuary? Do we bring the spiritual sacredness into the physical sanctuary?

Over my 12 years as a Rabbi, I am always moved by rituals within life cycle events. The tallit under the chuppa of a deceased grandparent, the kiddush cup that is an heirloom in the family, the kippah of the groom worn at his brit milah. Each ritualistic moment becomes an act of sustainability; not only a marking of time but a creation of another sanctuary that we enter.

With much gratitude, it is a joy to see our sanctuaries and chapels refill with moments of simcha. The seats are ready for our souls. Let us dwell in them.

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