Dvar Torah for Parshat Terumah


Based on Rabbi Nachman's Stories; The Exchanged Children

'[The Shunamite woman said to her man,] ÔThe holy man of God passes our way frequently. Let us make a him a room, and furnish it with a bed, table, chair and lamp, so that he will stay here whenever he comes.'Ó
2 Kings 4:9-10

'They explained, ÔIn front of the throne stands a bed. There is a table near the bed and on the table stands a lamp.'Ó
Rabbi Nachman's Stories, p. 270-271

The Shunamite woman recognized the holiness of the prophet Elisha. She wanted the energy of that holiness to influence her home. However, the home had to be made ready. A proper space had to be prepared and the appropriate furnishings had to be provided, otherwise Elisha would not come. So the Shunamite woman did for Elisha what Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our teacher) was told he would have to do for God's Mishkan (tabernacle). She made an appeal for the building fund.

Now, Elisha was going down the road from place to place, a genuine wayfarer. He needed a roof over his head and a place to rest his weary bones. The blessed Creator, on the other hand, is the Master of the house! He doesn't need four walls and He doesn't need a place to sit. Does He? He does.

In as much as we can say that God 'needsÓ anything, He needs us to allow Him in to our homes; our houses where our bodies live and our bodies where our souls reside. For though God is omnipotent He cannot honor Himself. Honor can only be given by an other.

So we extend an invitation to the Creator. Our table is His if we provide food for others less fortunate than we, whether in our dining room or theirs. Our lamp is His menorah if we let our Torah knowledge and faith radiate to others. If we don't share these tangible and intangible gifts, the table and lamp remain ours. The 'GuestÓ we want won't come in.

If our bed, be it a single or double mattress, is not sanctified, the Holy of Holies of our would-be Mishkan lacks an Ark, the container of the Torah. And if there is no Ark, there is no cover for the Ark, no throne. God's voice emanated from the space between the Cherubs that were atop the Ark's cover. No cover means no voice. Our moral lapses silence God.

The Mishkan was a public institution, the great-granddaddy of that oft-maligned, misunderstood, ill-attended butt-of-too-many-jokes, the synagogue. The home is one venue for sharing and hosting God, the synagogue is another. Over coffee or kiddush we can share a word of Torah or encouragement. We sanctify ourselves in prayer and listen as God speaks to us in the Torah reading.

There are two major challenges that we face in relating to the synagogue. One of these, the greater, we face at home as well, namely peace. God willing we'll speak about that in the dvar Torah for parshat YaYakhel, in three weeks. (Someone please remind me in two weeks!) The second challenge is money. Home is 'ours.Ó Everyone understands that the neighbors aren't going to pay for new plumbing or for new chairs and no one objects when these expenses are incurred. When it comes to the synagogue, however, it is a different story. The synagogue is 'theirs,Ó not 'ours.Ó We feel put upon and put out if asked to contribute to the synagogue's maintenance. It shouldn't be that way. At all.

One has to feel heimish (comfortably at home) in the synagogue. One has to make it heimish for other members and for guests, for his 'brothersÓ and 'sistersÓ with whom he shares it. Giving the synagogue terumah (charity money) itself helps to build that heimish feeling. Participating–showing up for prayers regularly (perhaps even daily!), attending Torah classes–does it as well.

At home one doesn't hold back from trying to make things better. At your synagogue you shouldn't hold back either. True, newcomers may feel uncomfortable in speaking up for fear of being considered obnoxious or pushy. Oldtimers may feel that 'things have always been this wayÓ and can't be changed, but we know that is not true. (See the dvar Torah for parshat Yitro.) Often as not, others are also interested in making the same improvements and they can be accomplished if we present our ideas properly, peacefully. When you and your 'brothersÓ and 'sistersÓ are comfortable in the synagogue, God, the honored 'Guest,Ó can fulfill His wish 'to dwell in their midstÓ (Exodus 25:8).

So when the Shunamite woman, the Shekhinah, calls to you, her man, to prepare a 'GodlyÓ home, respond generously. The holiness is worth every penny.

agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!