| Parshah |

Blueprint of Tradition

Our synagogues must be places where our children learn to appreciate religion




“Like all that I show you, the form of the Mishkan and the form of all its vessels, and so shall you do.”

(Shemos 25:9)


The words “so shall you do” refer to the future. When we build our Batei Knessiot now, we must ensure we have the same blueprint and priorities as the original Mishkan and its vessels.

When commanding Bnei Yisrael to build the rest of the keilim, Hashem words the commandment in the singular. However, for the Aron, it’s in plural — directed to multiple people — because the Aron represents Torah and everyone must participate in Torah learning.

This is a primary feature of a Beit Knesset, where communal Torah learning is available for all. (Rabbi Eli Mansour)

I hesitated by the nondescript caravan. It was pitch-black outside, the wind rustling the leaves. This is a mistake, I thought. I don’t belong here. Go home. But my Mommy instincts were stronger than my misgivings, so I stepped inside.

The decor was simple, almost stark, but the room was filled with warm, welcoming noises of talking and laughing. Immediately, a woman came over to greet me. “Hi! What’s your name? Where do you live?”

“Umm. I don’t actually live in the neighborhood… I’m really not part of this gathering… I came for my daughter and…” Awkward.

Just then I was saved. “Ma! You came! You didn’t have to!”

“But I wanted to,” I smiled. “It’s not every day my daughter has the main part in her Neshei Melaveh Malkah play.”

“That’s so sweet.” Mrs. Welcoming Committee looked pleased and proud. “Let’s give you a name tag as Nechami’s mother.”

The Menorah symbolizes the chinuch of our children. Its fire shines light into darkness to guide our children. Our synagogues must be places where our children learn to appreciate religion.

The Mishkan had a Mizbeiach for sacrifices. Today, the bimah represents that altar, with our prayers replacing those sacrifices. Furthermore, every Jew must recognize self-sacrifice within his service.

Unlike the Mizbeiach, Aron, and Menorah, which were spiritual, the Shulchan represents the physical. In our religion we don’t believe in a dichotomy between kodesh and chol. The seudot of a brit, pidyon haben, or kiddush in our batei knessiot elevate the physical l’sheim Shamayim.

As my daughter ushered me toward a chair, I realized awkward was about to get worse. Nearly all the women there were in my daughter’s age bracket, and I felt even more out of place. But my daughter’s a lovely hostess. I was soon chatting with her friends and holding their babies, rocking one as I patted another.

“You should open a Bubby gemach,” said a bubbly blonde, who confessed that her baby was only six weeks old. “We’d all use your services.”

I’d get the better part of the deal. Baby Heaven and then hand them back when the clock strikes midnight.

Three walls of the Mishkan were made of atzei shittim — acacia wood. Where did they get such wood in the desert? The Gemara says that Avraham planted these trees in Be’er Sheva. Then, when Yaakov went down to Mitzrayim, he took these trees with him. This seems strange: After not seeing his son for so many years, he shows up with a load of lumber? But Yaakov was teaching Yosef — this wood was planted by your great-grandfather Avraham. When your descendants leave Mitzrayim, they should take it with them for the Mishkan, because the Mishkan must be built with the traditions their ancestors planted.

So too, if our synagogues are built with the tradition of the Mishkan, then we have hope for the future.

The program began and I sat eagerly waiting for my own baby’s turn in the limelight. The MC opened the event by describing their brand-new shul, their fledgling Neshei group and their hopes for its future.

“Everyone’s here for the same reason,” she said with feeling. (Besides party-crashing me.) “We all have the same dream of building a community where our children can grow together.”

As she spoke, I was filled with an unexpected twist of keen envy for these women; an admiration and anticipation for what had brought them out here on this cold, windy evening. I suddenly longed to be twenty years younger, not to be juggling sleepless nights, but to be on the brink of something so idealistic and fundamental. What could be more monumental than building a community shul?

I hope they’ll let me be the shul’s honorary grandmother.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 731)

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