We don’t revere a mountain. It is a distinct part of the Jewish narrative that, although the giving of Torah happened at Mount Sinai, we do not make a pilgrimage to or revere the mountain. Rather, the experience at Mount Sinai was an interaction with holiness, with the Divine, and so the Israelites set about creating an indwelling place for that Divine that could travel with them in the desert. This is the Mishkan—the mobile tabernacle.
In this week’s Torah portion Terumah, the Divine invites each and every person to bring their gifts for the building and furnishing of the Mishkan.
דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כׇּל־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 is so moved.
Although there is a detailing of the lists of the required gifts that follow, the invitation in its simple form is to bring each one’s unique gifts and to bring the gifts of the heart.
We, too, are building a Mishkan together, a sacred space, a sanctuary in which we make room for holiness, for Divine interaction. This is the community that we build, in the shul itself and in our relationships out in the world.
Everyone has gifts. What gifts are you bringing to this project of building and nurturing personal and shared sacred space?
God tells Moses, “You shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved.” I hear in this that your gifts and mine are welcome, the gifts that are obvious, but also the subtle offerings we each have to contribute. Maybe our kindness is the gift? Or our time? Our volunteer skills at one or another event or maybe our caring for another member in a subtle gesture of inclusion is our gift to give. These are gifts that help to furnish the space we share at the shul, in our homes and out in the world together with love.
Let us be zekhirot, reminders for each other of the gifts we each have to bring and the importance of actually offering them. In this way, together, we will continue to build a mishkan, a sanctuary where all can dwell and thrive in care and belonging.