TETZAVEH

God Instructs the Israelites on How to Construct the Sanctuary
By Morty Breier

February 22, 1997

Lucky I’m an engineer because this weeks torah portion reads like an engineering  specification. Now, mind you, I like specifications. They get the job done as the engineer wants it done. In this case we are told its Hashem wanting things done as He wants them done. If He’s an engineer and you’re His contractor then you take Him literally and with precision. I don’t happen to think Hashem means it to work that way. I believe the Torah text to be allegory, not specifications. I believe Hashem wants us to bring our own skills and talents to the job. I believe we each are co-creators of this world Hashem outlines for us.

When the Torah speaks of a beautifully made Ark, of finely wrought garments, of awe- inspiring ceremony, it details the masterful accomplishments of talented artisans and priests of those ancient times. These are not otherworldly dictates or never before heard of constructs and rituals. These are the fine skills, methods, materials and artforms of that era. The point being, as I see it, not so much the actual things spoken of, but the concentration, knowledge, understanding and talent brought to the occasion. It is with this in mind that I make the transition from the goings on in the biblical Holy Temple of our Exodus reading to our congregation on this Shabbos morning in Hawaii.

I mean a Boeing 747, streaking across the heavens at 30,000 ft, 300 people being served meals while listening to music or watching a film, flying from New York to Tokyo non-stop, there’s a piece of creative craftsmenship surely over passing a mitered garment sewn with golden threads, no matter how fine the seamstress. We honor Hashem in our own 20th century way, with our own skills and accomplishments, the finest of which are surely more impressive than those of biblical times. This is the real wonder, that we get better as time passes. We as in our common human enterprise and we as individuals who grow from babe-in-arms helplessness to masterful shapers of home and hearth. This growth is the wonder of Hashem’s universe.

And growth is not only that the job at hand is done better with each passing year, but that there are more souls included within this better done job. There might have been 10,000 people who had the honor of witnessing the craftsmanship of the holy temple’s ark, of seeing the wonderful garments worn at worship, of attending to the awesome ceremonies involved. But now 20 million people fly in Boeing’s creations, 400 million drive auto industry cars, 600 million have radios, TVs and telephones. We have grown from times when fine things were the domain of monarchs and priests, to a time when very fine things (take the micro-chip producing your TV’s image) are common to a large and growing portion of this earth’s population. Hashem is certainly working His/Her wonder in this world of ours.

The question is do you and I fashion our daily lives, our living ceremonies, our creations and constructs with similar attention and skill? Do you and I realize that we are doing Hashem’s bidding when we perform each daily act with attention, skill and grace. That this is what is meant by the Jewish dictum to consecrate our lives by raising the profane to the sacred. The profane is boreing, habitual, repetative, heavy and dull. The sacred is alive, meaningful, bright and attractive. The profane is made sacred by our attention, skill and grace, by our creativity, movement and growth. It is with this burning awareness, with  these conscious actions that we honor Hashem, that we appreciate the world He/She has created for us, that we agree to help with the dreams He/She inspires, that we show our gratitude for being made in His/Her image, co-creators of this universe we live in.

It isn’t easy. We gather on these Shabbos mornings to remind ourselves that we are each this spark of God, this glowing consciousness. We need reminding. At least I need reminding. I am lucky to have Karen as my reminder. Her grace and good cheer, her quiet competence and easy activity, her warm heart and grateful nature are continuous reminders of my good fortune and the need to thank Hashem. To thank Hashem by being alive to all His/Her gifts in my life, by paying attention to each moment He/She presents to me, by sanctifying the simple acts of my daily existence. May we all feel Hashem’s grace in our being made special by our mate’s love and attention and may we provide that grace by giving our love and attention to all of Hashem’s creation.

Thanks for letting me address the oilem on this Shabbos, a week before Karen and I are to be married. I’d like to warmly welcome Karen’s mother Jeannie, who is with us today. Jeannie has been a student of both the old and the new Testaments, and it is for me a particular treat to have her witness our services and witness her daughter Karen’s involvement in this old testament community of ours, albeit with many new and not too orthadox takes on our 5,000 year old religion. Thank’s Jeannie for lending us your daughter Karen, she’s a joy in all of our lives.

Lucky I’m an engineer because this weeks torah portion reads like an engineering  specification. Now, mind you, I like specifications. They get the job done as the engineer wants it done. In this case we are told its Hashem wanting things done as He wants them done. If He’s an engineer and you’re His contractor then you take Him literally and with precision. I don’t happen to think Hashem means it to work that way. I believe the Torah text to be allegory, not specifications. I believe Hashem wants us to bring our own skills and talents to the job. I believe we each are co-creators of this world Hashem outlines for us.

When the Torah speaks of a beautifully made Ark, of finely wrought garments, of awe- inspiring ceremony, it details the masterful accomplishments of talented artisans and priests of those ancient times. These are not otherworldly dictates or never before heard of constructs and rituals. These are the fine skills, methods, materials and artforms of that era. The point being, as I see it, not so much the actual things spoken of, but the concentration, knowledge, understanding and talent brought to the occasion. It is with this in mind that I make the transition from the goings on in the biblical Holy Temple of our Exodus reading to our congregation on this Shabbos morning in Hawaii.

I mean a Boeing 747, streaking across the heavens at 30,000 ft, 300 people being served meals while listening to music or watching a film, flying from New York to Tokyo non-stop, there’s a piece of creative craftsmenship surely over passing a mitered garment sewn with golden threads, no matter how fine the seamstress. We honor Hashem in our own 20th century way, with our own skills and accomplishments, the finest of which are surely more impressive than those of biblical times. This is the real wonder, that we get better as time passes. We as in our common human enterprise and we as individuals who grow from babe-in-arms helplessness to masterful shapers of home and hearth. This growth is the wonder of Hashem’s universe.

And growth is not only that the job at hand is done better with each passing year, but that there are more souls included within this better done job. There might have been 10,000 people who had the honor of witnessing the craftsmanship of the holy temple’s ark, of seeing the wonderful garments worn at worship, of attending to the awesome ceremonies involved. But now 20 million people fly in Boeing’s creations, 400 million drive auto industry cars, 600 million have radios, TVs and telephones. We have grown from times when fine things were the domain of monarchs and priests, to a time when very fine things (take the micro-chip producing your TV’s image) are common to a large and growing portion of this earth’s population. Hashem is certainly working His/Her wonder in this world of ours.

The question is do you and I fashion our daily lives, our living ceremonies, our creations and constructs with similar attention and skill? Do you and I realize that we are doing Hashem’s bidding when we perform each daily act with attention, skill and grace. That this is what is meant by the Jewish dictum to consecrate our lives by raising the profane to the sacred. The profane is boreing, habitual, repetative, heavy and dull. The sacred is alive, meaningful, bright and attractive. The profane is made sacred by our attention, skill and grace, by our creativity, movement and growth. It is with this burning awareness, with  these conscious actions that we honor Hashem, that we appreciate the world He/She has created for us, that we agree to help with the dreams He/She inspires, that we show our gratitude for being made in His/Her image, co-creators of this universe we live in.

It isn’t easy. We gather on these Shabbos mornings to remind ourselves that we are each this spark of God, this glowing consciousness. We need reminding. At least I need reminding. I am lucky to have Karen as my reminder. Her grace and good cheer, her quiet competence and easy activity, her warm heart and grateful nature are continuous reminders of my good fortune and the need to thank Hashem. To thank Hashem by being alive to all His/Her gifts in my life, by paying attention to each moment He/She presents to me, by sanctifying the simple acts of my daily existence. May we all feel Hashem’s grace in our being made special by our mate’s love and attention and may we provide that grace by giving our love and attention to all of Hashem’s creation.

Thanks for letting me address the oilem on this Shabbos, a week before Karen and I are to be married. I’d like to warmly welcome Karen’s mother Jeannie, who is with us today. Jeannie has been a student of both the old and the new Testaments, and it is for me a particular treat to have her witness our services and witness her daughter Karen’s involvement in this old testament community of ours, albeit with many new and not too orthodox takes on our 5,000 year old religion. Thank’s Jeannie for lending us your daughter Karen, she’s a joy in all of our lives.

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