I love being near water, whether it is the sound of waves crashing on a shoreline or rain falling from the sky and hitting our sky lights. I love watching the ripples of a stream and seeing the expanse of open seas as a moment of freedom and connection. I am mesmerized by the way water moves and sounds. For me, living in Dallas means for the first time living without access to a large body of water. I’m talking a big body of water, like Lake Michigan or the Pacific Ocean. For me, there’s nothing like the water’s edge.
But each of us has our place, our location where we could just sit forever and watch, listen, think, and feel at peace. These are also places where we might meet somebody, where a chance encounter might mean meeting the person who changes our life. And we give spaces certain purposes. A sanctuary is a place where we go for our relationship with God, and a kitchen is where we go for our relationship with food and the people we eat with. We also assign spaces a time. We might pick a meeting spot, and know that every week at 8:00 we arrive to meet the same person in the same place.
The Torah is also filled with places that create meaning, memories and connections. We see connections with places made with Jacob as he realizes that God is in the place of his dream, but we don’t see that he comes back to this place to further his relationship and connection with God. As the Israelites leave Egypt and continue on their journey through the wilderness they have many brief encounters with God, but nothing permanent until God instructs them to create, build and maintain the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle. This week we read parshat Tetzaveh, which outlines not only the clothes the priests should wear, but also the purpose of setting the Tent of Meting as a regular place of holiness.
Up until now, holiness was only sporadically seen in the world, but by receiving the cycle of daily offerings and required interactions with God, the Israelites now have regular, daily experiences of holiness, completeness and calm. The Israelites have seen God come and go, but never before have they received specific instructions on how to make a permanent space for God in their daily lives. Chapter 29, verses 42-25 read: “For there I will meet with you, and there I will speak with you, and there I will meet with the Israelites, and it shall be sanctified by My Presence. I will sanctify the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and I will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve Me as priest. I will abide among the Israelites, and I will be their God.”
The text teaches that while we might believe that our actions can bring God’s grace and abiding presence to our daily life, it is ultimately God who has chosen to dwell among us. It is God who chose to be present in our daily lives and will be with us when we make space for God.
We often see space as a utility. We would never build a new school with classrooms too small to learn in, nor would we be happy if we built a new house that included a tiny room with no purpose. What the Torah is teaching us this week is that while the Tent of Meeting might be a place designed for Godly encounters, those encounters can only happen when your mind, body and soul are present. What good is it for God to dwell in the Tent of Meeting if we never use it? And what purpose does the Tent serve if our hearts and souls are not present in our actions?
We are implored to be not only physically present in our lives, but emotionally and spiritually present as well. We have the choice to see mitzvot as commandments and burdens, or as stepping stones to being fully present and aware of our daily meetings, and rendezvous. Who knows, the next meeting you have might change your life.
ללמוד To Learn: ללמד To Teach: לשמור To Keep: לעשות To Do: This parshah teaches us about the way we present ourselves in public. We learn that the priest was meant to wear specific clothing when performing his priestly duties. We often get so wrapped up into fashion that we forget that what we put on our bodies sends messages to others about us. As you get dressed for work, school, or play, ask yourself what message you are sending and is that message true to who you are.
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