Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Parashat Terumah- What Will You Do?


V’asu li Mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham.
And they shall make for me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them. (Shemot 25:8)

Parashat Terumah teaches us about the building of the Mishkan, the sanctuary. The children of Israel are commanded by God to bring terumah mei'eit kol ish asher yidbernu libo, gifts from every person whose heart so moves him. These gifts are to be all the materials needed for the construction- gold and silver, richly colored yarns, skins, wood, oil, spices, and gem-stones. With these we are commanded to follow a blueprint creating the place where God will dwell among us. The Mishkan becomes the centre of the Israelite camp. It is the place we gather for important decisions and from where national action is initiated. It is a parasha filled with action. Each aliyah, begins with a command to action. The root asa, meaning make or do, is used no less than 58 times in our seven aliyot. V’asu li Mikdash; make me a sanctuary. V’asita, v’asita*, v’asita, v’asita, v’asita, v’asita. Over and over we are commanded to make a place for God to dwell among us. Over and over we are commanded to take action, to be involved.

Throughout the centuries Jews have spread around the world. And, while Israel is still our centre, it may seem as if we no longer have a central place for all our voices to be heard. However, each one of us can still have our voice heard by the leadership of worldwide Jewry. In 1897 Theodore Herzl convened the first World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, which evolved into the World Jewish Congress. Ad hayom hazeh, unto this very day, every 4-5 years a new Congress is convened by the World Zionist Organization. All other years the Vaad Hapoel, the working committees of the WZO gather. At these meetings and at the Congress Jewish leadership from around the world gather, making important decisions and initiating international policy and action. At this same time the Jewish Agency for Israel holds its annual meetings. It is at these meetings where money is budgeted for institutions and programs in Israel and around the world, including the money raised by worldwide Jewish Federations.

The WZO is the place we gather for important decisions and from where national Jewish action is initiated. V’asita, v’asita*, v’asita, v’asita, v’asita, v’asita. Together we are still commanded to act, to build Israel and the worldwide Jewish community. When we act together for the sake of heaven our actions become holy, and we invite the Divine spirit to dwell among us. It is the obligation of every Jew to take part in building our world. We do this by being part of a Zionist organization. MERCAZ-Canada is part of these meetings. Through our affiliation with MERCAZ Olami, the worldwide Zionist branch of Conservative Judaism, our representatives participate in the Vaad Hapoel, Congress, and Jewish Agency meetings. The size of our delegation and our influence both depend upon the size of our membership. The greater our membership and voter turnout, the larger our delegation, and the stronger our voice at these meetings, where important decisions regarding Israel and world Jewry are made. Ensure that our voice as Conservative Jews speaking for the validity of our traditions and our rabbis, stays strong. The Masorti movement in Israel has come so far. We have challenged municipal policy and won. Our influence is strong. We no longer bring gifts of gold and silver, of skins, and gems, and yarn. Our gift, our obligation, our asita is to take an active role, by being a member of MERCAZ-Canada and supporting the Masorti Movement in Israel in the continuing sanctuary for World Jewry.

* The Ashkenazi division has the word ta’aseh at the start of the third aliyah. The Sephardi division uses v’asita. Both versions of the word mean “you will do/make”.