Like many of you, on Wednesday night Beth and I watched as the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. For weeks, Russian conventional forces have been amassing on the Ukrainian boarder so, as painful as it was to witness, there was no surprise about what we were seeing unfold.
In one particularly poignant moment, a small group of Ukrainian citizens—five or six individuals bundled up against the bitter cold—gathered in a town square and, prostrating themselves in humility, they prayed.
Our Torah portion this week, VaYakhel, provides instruction, in minute detail, as to how all the of the items for our ancient prayer ritual are to be made. Intricate descriptions prescribe the materials for making the Holy Tabernacle, the goats’ wool for the Over-tent, the acacia wood for the beams, gold for fasteners and a lamp, and abundant mandates for the sacrificial altar and washstand beams. These intricacies were meant to deepen the relationship between Israel and God, literal in its time, paradigmatic in ours.
Central to temple worship—central to Jewish worship—is detail, effort, relationship. Both the concept and the experience of God can be elusive. It is why the Jewish people are known as wrestlers with God; it is why we are not known for absolute knowledge. Despite the unknowability of God, we are called upon to invest time and money in elaborations that symbolize and amplify relationship, even—maybe especially—in times of doubt.
This relationship connects us through the generations and with one another. And it is in this first, fundamental relationship that we experience unbounding empathy for brothers, sisters, cousins, and neighbors, near and far. Because of this relationship with the Maker of Creation and because of the attendant connection with all of humanity, we can pray and cry with those gathered in a town square thousands of miles away.
This Shabbat, let us join together in empathy, compassion, and prayers for peace.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.