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Parashat Terumah

February 19, 2021
7 Adar 5781
Parashat Terumah
Exodus 25:1 - 27:19

 

Dear Friends,

 

This week is Shabbat Zachor – the Shabbat before Purim when we are tasked with remembering our time in the wilderness when the Amalekites attacked those who were weakest among us as we traveled together (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). We are enjoined to both blot out the name of Amalek and to remember. The lines from Deuteronomy are an addition to our Torah portion for this Shabbat as we begin to read about the building of the portable tabernacle that went with us throughout our journey.

 

The juxtaposition of the building of the mishkan, the portable tabernacle (Exodus 25:1-27:19), with the additional lines from Deuteronomy could not be more appropriate at this moment.

 

Let us take a moment to remember where we have been over the past year. It was just a year ago that we had our last in-person communal service on Purim. It has been a year where our reality has shifted and our need to find new ways to anchor ourselves while taking care of our physical well-being has been at the forefront for many of us.

 

Now we are at a place with a light shining at us from the end of the tunnel, unsure of what we will find once we emerge. How will the world we once knew be different? What will be the same? How will we emerge? What will have changed for each of us?

 

Once more I feel supported by our journey through the Torah and what our texts and traditions have to teach us, providing guidance as we move forward during these extraordinary times. If we begin with the imperative to “Zachor” to remember, what are we being asked to remember? Is it that we were attacked by an evil enemy who took advantage of our weakness, or is to remember our failure in allowing for a successful attack?  Even as we blot out Amalek while telling the story, we must remember that we did not protect and defend the weakest among us. This story reminds us that we need to be there for one another, providing us with a stark example of what happens when we allow cruelty to prevail simply by not paying attention. In these days when the term Nazi is tossed around with impunity, it is in part because we and those around us have failed to remember. When we stop telling the story, the story begins to disappear before our very eyes.

 

The Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle, is a symbol that serves to unite the people in their journey. The details of its construction are quite explicit. It becomes the focal point as the people travel through the wilderness. Later on, we read the way the people were organized around the Mishkan. In this past year, coming together physically has been a challenge; we have only been able to do so outdoors. Yet, we have continued to come together online, our faces seen in ways they have never been seen before, creating a different kind of closeness -- a different kind of Mishkan experience.

 

We have not been able to sing together, which I long to do, and to create holy time and space together. But what our tradition teaches us with the story of the traveling tabernacle is that our ability to adapt has always been with us as long as we are able to recognize those moments which are sacred and holy while reaffirming our commitment to one another to leave no one behind -- to protect the weak and the infirm.

 

At Purim, we read the story of Esther and Mordechai. (Scholars note that the story probably did not happen.) As we read Megillat Esther on Purim, this almost cartoonish tale of Jewish survival at the hands of a true villain strikes us with the courage that lies at its core. Esther and Mordecai are examples of standing up for your people when you could hide who you are and refusing to bow down to bullies. This story is a reminder of what to do when we are attacked by the next version of the Amalekites. This season is about remembering and garnering strength from our story even as we let off steam and let silliness reign, with the deep knowledge that, more than anything, we need to be there for one another not just as Jews but as humans.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Tue, June 15 2021 5 Tammuz 5781