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A Little Piece of Israel -- CHRONICLE Online/The WORD 02/15/24

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah


February 15, 2024

1 Adar 5784

Parashat Terumah

Every Friday morning, our ELC students march into our sanctuary singing a song about the Torah. They march up on to the bimah and say “Shabbat Shalom” to the Torah scrolls in the Ark. Some of them notice the Lamp about the Ark—the Ner Tamid. They are careful to avoid the reading table—or shulchan—which is just the right height to hit many of them in the head.  

They feel comfortable in that space. They know that they belong there. What they don’t know is that it is a recreation of our ancestors’ sacred spaces as described in this week’s Torah portion and Haftarah.  

From the Torah, we read the details of how our ancestors built the Tabernacle while wandering in the wilderness on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Among the details were an Ark to carry God’s words, a Table from which to offer God gifts and a Lamp to represent the Divine Presence among the people. That portable sacred space served our ancestors until they entered into the Promised Land.

Then, in our Haftarah, we read that 480 years after the Exodus from Egypt, Solomon oversaw the construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem. Like the Tabernacle, it had an Ark, a Table, and a Lamp.

As Judaeans and Israelites moved further and further away from the Temple—sometimes by choice, sometimes by force—they took a little of the Temple with them. They started building synagogues with elements of the Temple so that they could reach out to God and preserve their traditions.  

So, when the Second Temple was ultimately destroyed in 70 CE, Jews around the world turned to these synagogues to take the place of the Temple in their lives. For nearly 2,000 years, wherever Jews found themselves, they sought to create a little replica of the Temple in order to perpetuate the Jewish tradition and maintain a link with the Promised Land.

Sure, our connection to Israel can be found in our prayers and in our writings. More than that, though, it can be found the design and furnishings of our synagogues. Maybe one of the reasons that we Jews feel at home when we go visit Israel is that we have been visiting a little piece of Israel all our lives without really knowing.


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