First day of spring in NY: The used-to-be white remnants of last week’s big storm are still lingering around. In spite of the sun, there are still forgotten patches of snow, and piles of unidentified color ice. I smile. I keep a good attitude. I’m the California Girl that everybody is watching, and I need to show it’s no problem at all… But inside I do wonder, what’s the plan here?? Waiting to see some real spring…
Construction can be a pain… the endless details… “ma’am, would you like this in light almond or dark egg-shell?” the language of the professionals: “it’s 16 on center”… the precision: “it’s not 8’6” but 6’8”…
The Torah in this week’s portion invites us to the most exciting construction project possible: building a house for G-d. And while we toil with zeal, showing up with all our gold, silver, colorful cloth and what not, we’re also told that G-d has no plans to live in it at all. Rather, if we build it, he will dwell among us. The building is not at all for Him. It is for us.
According to some, this Torah portion tells of the greatest miracle in the Torah – not the Splitting of the Sea, the Plagues, and Mana falling from the heavens…All these are made by G-d and G-d, by definition, can make anything so there’s no challenge there. But – the fact that, for once, we can all get together, bring whatever donations we might have, and follow accurate directions to make the mishkan – that is a miracle.
In the second of this Shabbat’s Torah portions the mishkan is called “mishkan ha’edut” – the Tabernacle of Testimony. What is the testimony for? That G-d has forgiven us after the sin of the Golden Calf. But…wait, right after the Golden Calf, G-d already says to Moses that he’s has forgiven. Moses was even instructed to make the new Tablets. So how is the mishkan a testimony for forgiveness? The Maharal explains that the Tablets are not really making peace between the people and G-d, because they just include more instructions of what we have to do. This is not a partnership but a one-way street: He gives us law and we receive. But the mishkan is about a broader “us”-us that is made of people and G-d – joining in the intimate act of building a home together. It will be a place full of objects that remind us of our close relationship and help us “make up” so if and when we might ever fight, we’ll have a home of peace and love to come back to.
Shabbat Mevarchim, the Shabbat of Blessing, is this Shabbat the Shabbat before the month of Nissan. The month of Pesach is upon us and its frantic preparations are in the air. Once upon a time, the calendar started here, with this Month of Redemption. There are many questions and beautiful ideas about this but today, just one.
The question is asked, how come we begin the year with “redemption”? It should be backwards! Start with slavery and work the whole year to get out. Redemption takes a lot of work, effort and time! It should be the last month of year, the culmination of all our labor! But this is not a regular redemption; it’s a miracle; it’s G-d’s. The Maharal connects the word “chametz” – the fermented, unleavened bread, with “lehachmitz”, to miss out – both things to avoid at all costs. On Pesach everything is rushed. Maybe we are reminded that when something good comes our way, we need to attend to it right away and not lose it.