Posts Tagged 'Space'

The Practice in Hospitality : Terumah and Making Space for Others

As Torah portions go, this is a big week. In Terumah we start getting the blue print for the Tabernacle. If that was not significant enough, the Tabernacle is itself the blueprint for our experience of Shabbat. The 39 categories of work that went into building the Tabernacle are the same varieties of labor that are prohibited on Shabbat. So while I don’t assume that we will return to the cult of the tabernacle or ritual slaughter in the third Temple any time soon, Shabbat with all of its assorted rituals is a fixture of my life. Here in Terumah there is a clear plan for what will be built and made, but that is not where they start off this large-scale project. Rather, they start off with themselves. As we read:

‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart makes him willing you shall take My offering.( Exodus 25:2)

While their gifts are going to fit into a very clear and focused plan, their gifts were from the heart. At the center of our national narrative is a collaborative non-profit project that celebrates the diverse offerings of every individual while working toward a common goal. And about this project God says:

And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8)

The text does not say “make this building so that I can dwell in it“- the Tabernacle, but rather in “them”. When building the Tabernacle we were building a place for God to be with us.  When we made space for God to be our guest we were transformed into the host and in so doing God was in us.

In making the world God, the Lord of Hosts, was making a place for us to be. God rested on Shabbat from that work, so we could be together with us God’s guests. Similarly by instructing us  to rest from our kind of work on Shabbat, we are invited to be the Host for God in our lives. At  the core of the Tabernacle, the Temple, and Shabbat is a profound notion of hospitality.

This fundamental notion of making space for guests brings us back to the advent of Judaism. There we see Avraham in his post-op discomfort standing in his tent vigilantly looking out for would-be guests. From the beginning being Jewish is less a disposition toward God and more about behaviors that make us open to others in our lives. Maybe if we made enough room for all of the people we would have enough room for God in our lives. In this sense Judaism is less of a faith and more of a practice in hospitality.

 

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Out of This World Experience

At this point in the season most camps have started and are underway. Many of us are just about to send our children off or have packing fresh on our minds. My wife and I are excited to be sending our eldest child off to sleep away camp for the first time later this summer for his first taste of camp. So, beyond the packing list with its requisite underpants, soap, towels, and bathing suits, what else is on the packing list? What do we need to send our children to camp to ensure that they have a meaningful summer?

Beyond the personal reasons, the question of the packing list is on my mind recently in that July 1st marks ten and half years since the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. All seven-members of the crew died. One of the crew members was Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first Astronaut. Obviously I hope that all of our children return safely, but it is interesting to reflect on what Ramon brought with him beyond the requisite packing list.

Ilan Ramon the child of a survivor of Auschwitz carried a pencil sketch, “Moon Landscape”, drawn by 16-year-old Petr Ginz, who died in Auschwitz. He also took a miniature Torah scroll that was given him by Prof. Yehoyachin Yosef, both survived Bergen Belsen. Ramon brought a barbed wire mezuzah by the San Francisco artist Aimee Golant into space. Ramon also took with him a dollar of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. In his own words, Ramon said, “I feel I am representing all Jews and all Israelis.”

There is no doubt that we have a lot invested in our children having amazing experiences. As we are packing up our children for a spectacular experience at camp it is interesting for us to recognize the history that brought each child to this moment. While we hope to pack our child with a lot of history, we know that the most important thing each child will find at camp is a space of his/her own. Yadid has not even left yet and I am looking forward to his safe return. I look forward to unpacking his bags on his return to I can learn about his out of this world experience.


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