Finding Sanctuary – Parshat Terumah 5782

One of the hardest parts of living through the “stay safe at home” orders was the ability to find a sacred space to call my own. Throughout the pandemic, whether it’s just our immediate family of four, or our extended pod “family” of seven, we’ve been constantly in each other’s space. This means that finding a space for privacy, a space to work, a space of peace is exceptionally difficult for all of us.

We each have found little sanctuaries where we can find cozy comfort. For our crate-trained dog Stanley, his crate is actually his safe space, and it’s perched at the top of the stairs in a location that lets him see everything going on, while protecting himself from the often overwhelming energy of the kids.

For Matan, our five-year-old, his new “big kid” bed gives him just enough space underneath to make it a perfect hideout. Our daughter will sometimes create her own fort, hiding under an end table draped with a blanket and stuffed with pillows underneath. Having everyone home more of the time hasn’t been ideal, but having at least one spot we can each call our own has made all the difference in the world.

Where is my holy space? When I’m not in the office for an in-person meeting, whenever I can, I take my sacred space to the road, using my phone and headphones to Zoom while I walk in the outdoors, taking in the sun or rain, and moving my body. When that doesn’t work, I end up in my makeshift office, an ironing board set up in a corner of my bedroom, or at the end of the dining room table. I wouldn’t call either of them sacred, but they’re functional and practical.

Even without a pandemic, having a sacred space to focus, contemplate, and engage with our thoughts is important. It’s so important, in fact, that the Torah teaches us about it in this week’s Torah portion. 

This week we read Parshat Terumah, which reminds us of the importance of giving gifts just because we want to. The parshah focuses mainly on the building of the Tabernacle, the Mishkan, including what the ark and decorative pieces will look like. The instructions are specific, including what materials should be used, exactly how big each piece should be, and how the floor plan should look when the building is completed.

Chapter 25, verse 8 comes after we receive an initial list of gifts required to make a dwelling place for God. Notably, the text tells us that it is both the material items needed to set up the space and the notion of others respecting the space that are necessary for God to dwell among the people. In other words, the building of sacred space requires not just the right materials, but also everyone’s acknowledgement that it is indeed sacred.

While I might not love having pillow forts all around my house, respecting the needs of my children has allowed them to feel safe and find comfort in a troubling time. While Duncan didn’t love me turning our bedroom into my office, we both understood the need for a private space for me to write, connect with our team, and lead our community. Parshat Terumah reminds us to respect the space we set aside, and I hope you’ve been able to both create and appreciate the spaces you need. 

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