Sunday, June 22, 2014

Naso- “Planks and Bars, Posts, and Sockets”


V’zot mishmeret masa’am l’khol-avodatam b’ohel moeid karshay hamishkan uv’richav v’amudav va’adanav.
And these are their tasks in connection to their duties in the Tent of Meeting: planks, bars, posts, and sockets for the Mishkan. (B’midbar 4:31)
Parashat Naso begins with descriptions of the duties of those responsible for the day-to-day care of the Mishkan. For most of us, the Mishkan is a spiritual place. It’s where the laws are given, where we come to commune with God, to offer sacrifices and discover our spirituality. What we don’t often acknowledge is the care that goes into creating such a place. The Mishkan requires care. Someone has to assemble and disassemble the tent when the Israelites camp and move. There are ashes to be disposed of, and vessels to be cleaned.
We are no different today. We come to the synagogue for prayer and for community. We want to search and to learn. We expect spirituality and kedushah. What we do not think about is who cares for the space. When was the last time you thought about the synagogue electric bill? Have you considered who empties the garbage? Who vacuums the carpet, washes the dishes, does the shopping?
Mishkan comes from the root “sh-kh-n,” meaning dwell. The name is significant. When one dwells somewhere s/he needs to attend to all aspects of life. The thing on which we dwell is ever present in our minds and our hearts. In our homes there is laundry and yard work. There are bills for hydro and water. Someone needs to tend to the building, to clean and to care for it. We think about these things everyday in our own homes. We worry about the condition of the roof or the draftiness of the windows. We winterize and get our homes ready for summer. We do this for our homes, for our offices, and for our vehicles. We rarely do this for the synagogue. Should we not give the home of our spiritual life at least the attention we give to the places in our physical life. Like the Gershonites and the Merarites of the Torah, there are still individuals who ensure the “planks and bars, posts, and sockets” are safe and ready for us. They watch over the synagogue. They ensure the synagogue structure will be ready for us to come to pray, to search for our spirituality and kedushah and to gather with our community to learn. However, it doesn’t happen without all of us. Just as the Israelites are expected to participate in the support of the Mishkan to guarantee its continued presence, we too must, through our membership and ongoing donations of money and time, support our congregation to ensure its continued healthy presence.
An older colleague once told me of a meeting he had. A man had come to him so this rabbi could officiate at the funeral of a family member. During the course of the meeting, this man told the rabbi that he wasn’t a synagogue member because he didn’t believe in organized religion. The rabbi replied, “Aren’t you lucky then that my congregants do so that I can be here for you when you need me.” It is the responsibility of every Jew to ensure the “planks and bars, posts, and sockets” are safe, ready and waiting for us, in working order, for our future and for the next generation.