Thursday, March 3, 2011

Making the Place: Lessons from the Mishkan in Pekudei

What do we have room for in our lives? The things we make a place for. In a book I read recently about leadership, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,the author tells a story about a conversation he had with one of his students. The student approaches him and tells him that me needs to miss class for a swimming competition. The teacher responds, "do you need to miss class for the competition, or do you want to miss class. When you have the answer to that question, you can go." The student responds a day later to the author that he wants to go to the competition, but it is truly important to him to attend. The author responds, "you can go and good luck. All I wanted you to acknowledge is that you are making a choice and that you should stand behind it as such."

In the modern world we confuse needs and wants. We often say that we need to do something because we do not want to justify our choices. However, most things in our lives are indeed prerogatives. When we make the time for the things we care about, they will undoubtedly have a prominent place in our lives.

In this week's portion, Parashat Pikudei, we learn about what it means to make a space, a sacred, blessed, and beautiful space for God. The original order for the tabernacle comes from God in Parashat Terumah: (Ex 25:8) "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." God gives detailed instructions and the Israelites begin the work. As the process of building the mishkan comes to a close in our parasha, the mishkan is given an interesting name: mishkan haeiduit, the Tabernacle of Testimony.

Our ancestors asked the question, "What does 'Tabernacle of Testimony' mean?" According to many commentaries, the tabernacle is a testament for the love that God has for Israel. Not only does the Tabernacle represent the effort of the Israelites, but also the love that God shows for Israel by wanting to live among its members.

God dwells in those spaces that we make for The Divine, and through the creation of those spaces, a loving relationship is forged between God and God's people, Israel. This week, let us think about the difference between what we want and what we need. Further, let's double our efforts to make room for God, Torah, community, and synagogue in our lives.

Shabbat Shalom