This week’s Shabbat Shalom message was written by guest author and JEWISHcolorado Chief Jewish Life & Engagement Officer Dr. Julie Lieber.
In this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, God asks Moses to work with the Israelites to create a physical space for the divine to rest. God says to Moses, “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I shall dwell amidst them.”
Moses is given detailed instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and also for its aspect. It’s meant to be both a place for people to encounter God and a manifestation of God, for who can truly understand God in all God’s fullness? What is knowable, what is within our grasp is beauty, and so the sanctuary is meant to be beautiful. A more digestible, perceptible expression of an ultimately unknowable God.
Humans have a long history indeed of making the inaccesible accessible. This is especially important for those who cannot or don’t have the time to digest the complicated, the nuanced, the infinite—the divine. That which we cannot understand we must somehow explain by means that enable us to comprehend the incomprehensible.
And among those who need a more accessible path to such ideas are the young. Not surprisingly, our tradition is obsessed with passing it on, with the transmission of knowledge and values, their meaning and importance, from one generation to the next.
Today, like it or not, social media is at least one of the means by which complex information is made accessible to the next generation, turned from a banquet into a soundbite. Online culture is the water we are swimming in: this is not an original observation.
But how many parents know—to say nothing of understand—what their teens are consuming on a regular basis?
It is indubitably the case that teens are learning much about our culture and our world through social media; it is likewise the case that they are learning much of what they know about Israel through social media. And all of this makes talking to your teen about Israel challenging. It makes preparing your high school senior for what they will encounter on their college campus challenging. It makes planning for the future challenging.
One of the ways to counter the ubiquity and power of the digital shorthand that passes for fact—things like memes and catchphrases and hashtags—is through first-person, immersive encounters like those in our upcoming Community Conversations: Teen Series.
This Shabbat, let us make space and time for nuance, for subtlety, for reflection. Let us build a beautiful sanctuary colored in all the glorious shades of gray that exist between black and white.
Dr. Julie Lieber
Chief Jewish Life & Engagement Officer