Dear TBS Friends and Family,
We are finally gathering in-person this Friday for the first time in two months!
Below is my weekend column for Record Courier about our Shabbat Service this Friday night at 7:30 at TBS. Join us!
In the past few weeks, as the current wave of Covid begins to subside, some Jews in the area are slowly coming back together. On the campus of Kent State, where I spend most of my time during the week, students were not permitted to gather together to eat throughout the month of January. Students were offered grab-and-go meals and asked to return to their dorms or apartments.
As of February 1, the university permitted students to share meals together. At Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus, where I serve as the Senior Jewish Educator, we are also restarting meals together, including our first celebratory Sabbath dinner this Friday night. (We were snowed out last Friday.)
At Temple Beth Shalom, in Hudson, where I spend my weekends, we are similarly returning to our shared space this week, after spending the past two months in a Zoom-only format. It feels like such a relief to begin to return to our community together. It feels holy.
(It also feels somehow different, because half our group will be in-person and the other half will participate on Zoom.)
We have spent so much time apart recently navigating the cold, the snow, and the distance. Returning to community is like a return to breathing deeply.
Additionally, Jewish communal leaders also keep in mind what happened in Colleyville, Texas, a few weeks ago when a rabbi and its congregants were held hostage at gunpoint for 12 hours. Now when Jews want to gather communally, they are required to factor in armed security to feel safe in their house of worship.
This elevated level of antisemitism that we have encountered over the past several years has made many of us uneasy. And yet, Jewish communities respond to threats of terror by joining together in community and celebrating our sacred times at our houses of worship. Our coming together is also about seeking comfort in anxious times. Our synagogues and our campus Hillels become a second home for many of us.
The Torah readings this week and last week focus on the Israelites’ construction of the portable tabernacle, with descriptions of the furniture and the garments worn by the officiants.
The detailed building instructions in Exodus 25 begin with a fundraising request from the folks.
The Eternal spoke to Moses, saying: “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him. (Exodus 25:1)
The takeaway message happens a few verses later:
Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8)
This verse is often recalled in the famous Gospel song by Randy Skruggs, “Oh Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary….” At Temple Beth Shalom, we often start with the English words of the song, but we also add in the Hebrew words for a deeper connection to the message of community. God doesn’t ask Moses to do this alone. God asks the entire community to come together through donations and artisanal work. God doesn’t say that “I will dwell among it,” as expected, rather, “I will dwell among them.”
The Israelites, raised as slaves in Egypt, saw physical representations of idols. While the Israelites encountered God’s presence at Mt. Sinai, they are not asked to live their lives in a monastic fashion there. Rather, they need to journey forward, together. Two new things are forming for the first time ever: the birth of the people and the creation of their holy space.
As we are encountering our holy spaces, perhaps anew after a sustained time away, may we greet this return to community with a deep appreciation for the people, and a renewed appreciation for the beauty of coming together in community to celebrate our joys, and acknowledge our losses.
SHABBAT SERVICE LINKS:
For our electronic siddur click here. Please click on the second item for Shabbat, Festivals, and Weekdays:
NEW TIME: “Judaism 101” Sundays, 4:00 pm @ TBS!
We are now welcoming students to join us as they are comfortable in-person on Sunday afternoons at 4 pm. The class will also be on Zoom for those that prefer attending from home.
UPCOMING TBS GATHERINGS
- Fri. 2/11, 7:30 pm: Shabbat Service – Zoom & in-person
- Sun. 2/13, 4:00 pm: Judaism 101 – Zoom & in-person
- Sat. 2/19, 9:30 am: Torah Study: “Prophets: Solomon’s Temple” – Zoom & in-person
- Sun. 2/20, 4:00 pm: Judaism 101 – Zoom & in-person
- Fri. 2/25, 7:30 pm: Shabbat Service – Zoom & in-person