Dear WJC Family,
On the side of the WJC building it says, “וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃,
V’Asu Li Mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham, Make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell among you.” It is a quote from Parshat Terumah, which we will be reading in synagogue this week. The quote comes at the end of a call by Moses for voluntary donations from “anyone whose heart moves them,” in order to build the Tabernacle and all of its utensils. Thus the parsha is often used as the first example of a sanctuary “capital campaign.” It is important for people to come together to take care of the synagogue financially, but I don’t think that’s why the quote is on the side of our building.
The key to understanding how we get from the donation of valuables to God dwelling among the people isn’t in the donation per se, but in the opportunity for everyone to participate: the key word in Terumah is “voluntary.” Up until now, the slaves who left Egypt have not had the opportunity to participate in their own religious life; God and Moses have been doing everything for them. Terumah is the first time everyone can take an active role in their relationship with God, and when they do, God dwells among them—not because they built such a fancy edifice, but because they all built it together with the joining of their hearts.
It is that joint energy of us all coming together to create a spiritual home that inspired the words on our building. Yes, that includes financial support, but it is hardly limited to that. One of the things that I have found truly exceptional about WJC is the energy, knowledge, and talent that so many people, professional and lay leaders, contribute on a regular basis. It is that shared commitment and dedication that, just like in the parsha, gives me the sense of the Divine Presence in our beautiful synagogue.
This coming year we have the privilege of adding another source of energy, ideas, and knowledge in the form of a spiritual leader, a second rabbi, who will join the clergy team. This Shabbat we will host Rabbi Jessica Fisher, the first of four incredibly talented candidates who will all be ordained this Spring at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. I hope you had an opportunity to see the schedule of events designed to give you the opportunity to meet her and learn with her. There will be a similar schedule for each of the candidates over the next few weeks. Please plan accordingly so you can give us feedback about each. Meeting the candidates and contributing feedback to the Search and Spiritual Life Committees is another form of Terumah we need from as many people as possible to ensure we have a successful process and continue our tradition of quality and a good fit with our clergy.
Rabbi Fisher will be delivering the sermon on Saturday morning and the kavanot at Rhythm and Ruach on Friday evening. I will be speaking at the Traditional Friday night service and teaching on Saturday afternoon on the topic “What the Ordination Ritual of the Kohanim teaches us about Leadership.” Rabbi Segelman is taking the opportunity to spend Shabbat with his family in the city, so I will be teaching the Saturday morning 8:45am class—for the first time! I’m very excited to learn with this group of Torah journeyers. You can join us for the first time too! It’s a welcoming group. We will learn about The Musar of the Mishkan: How the rabbis of the Musar movement use the Tabernacle to understand our role in the world.
One last note, I will be out Sunday-Tuesday at the AIPAC Policy Conference. As a Zionist and a believer in a strong Israel-US relationship, AIPAC is one of my passions. This year, Tami and I are excited to be bringing our oldest son Elijah for the first time! We value the commitment of AIPAC to working with people from all backgrounds and political affiliations. Policy Conference is an opportunity for civil discourse on complicated topics; the unifying idea is that we believe in a strong US-Israel relationship, which benefits both countries. We are also excited to share it with the dozens of folks coming from our WJC family. I look forward to sharing my impressions from this year’s conference upon my return. If you’d like to hear more or discuss this more, whether you agree with AIPAC’s role and how it goes about it or choose to express your connection with Israel in a different way, let’s find a time to get together and do that. I know that AIPAC is not without controversy. For a beautiful write-up on what AIPAC is like and why it is so important to so many rabbis from every denomination, check out my colleague Rabbi Adam Kligfeld’s Facebook post on the subject by clicking here.
I could not have said it better myself.
Please click on the video link below to view another Dvar Torah I’ve prepared to get us ready for Shabbat. I hope to see you this weekend!
See you in shul,