“The Eternal spoke to Moses, saying: Tell B’nai Yisrael to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves them. And these are the gifts you shall accept from them:
- Gold – Providing financial stewardship.
- Silver – Taking on a leadership role.
- Copper – Tending to our physical space.
- Blue yarn – Educating our members, any age.
- Purple yarn – Helping us laugh, sing, dance and cry.
- Crimson yarn – Comforting our mourners.
- Goats’ hair – Supporting our students and youth.
- Fine linen – Leading service and reading our sacred texts.
- Tanned Ram Skins and Dolphin Skins – Helping behind the scenes.
- Acacia Wood – Fixing the world, piece by piece.
- Oil for lighting – Communicating what we do, who we are.
- Spices for the anointing oil and for the incense – Nourishing our bodies, minds, and souls.
- Lapis Lazuli and other stones for setting – Making the festivals come to life (Making Judaism come alive).
And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.”
[Note: there is not a strong correspondence between each material and the time-gift I have connected to them.]
Rabbi Shai Held suggests that: “The mishkan (tabernacle) is intended to serve…as an island of Eden in a decidedly non-Edenic world.”
What a kehilah, a sacred community, aims to do, is precisely this. Each of us, as our heart so moves us, gives us the gift of our presence and of our time to create a sanctuary, an island that provides shelter, comfort and nourishment for the heart, mind and soul. A place where one can let their guard down. A place where our highest values, aspiration and goals remain in focus, no matter what may be happening out there. Every thing that each of us does for the congregation contributes towards these larger goals, towards building a Mishkan, our Mishkan, our island of Eden in this non-Edenic world.
So when someone asks us what we do as part of the congregation, no matter what role we play, in a larger sense, we all play the same role: we make a sanctuary so that God may dwell among us.
As you entered this morning, you were given a choice of wooden blocks or slats, and present with several labels, one for each of these terumot z’man, gifts of time. And you choose from among those labels ones that captures in some way the kinds of terumot z’man, gifts of time you have given over the past year or even years.
I want to invite every one up to the shulchan, one at a time, to bring up their building block, covered with their terumot z’man labels, and to put them all together. Then we will have a sense of what all of these terumot z’man look like when they are all put together.
After you bring up your building block, I would like you to share two things: first, your name, and second, what your terumat z’man could be for the coming year. It can be something that you either want to continue to do or something that you want to start to do.
[Note: Nearly every person in the room got up, beginning with our current president Mickey Lebowitz, followed by so many others, who enthusiastically shared their name with everyone, and what they would give of their time in the coming year. All the while, we sang the melody from “Prepare me to be a sanctuary,” both to the words of the biblical verse above, and then the melody alone. The last people to get up were Hecky and Ettarae Alpert, the founding couple of CBS-CS, who shared their names and what they would do in the coming year. To have them conclude the time-gifts was truly the emotional peak of the entire experience.]
We then concluded with the Blessing for the Community from Siddur Sim Shalom (page 148):
May God who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, bless this entire congregation, together with all holy congregations: Them, their sons and daughters, their families, and all that is theirs, along with those who unite to establish synagogues for prayer, and those who enter them to pray, and those who give funds for heat and light, and wine for Kiddush and Havdalah, bread to the wayfarer and tzedakah to the poor; and all who devotedly involve themselves with the needs of this community, and the Land of Israel. May the Holy One reward them, remove sickness from them, heal them, and forgive their sins. May God bless them by making all their worthy endeavors prosper, as well as those of the entire people Israel. And let us say: Amen.
We are going to leave the blocks of our trumot z’man in place during Musaf, as a reminder that all that we do together as a congregation is to build our Mishkan, our sacred community.