Friday, February 23, 2007


A friend of mine lent me a book this week.
It’s an architecture atlas that showcases amazing building projects from around the world. With building a new shul on my mind, I found it very interesting. There are some amazing architectural feats around the world, and some very bold projects.

China boasts striking, futuristic skyscrapers, while New York is planning its new WTC tower complex. In Dubai, they’re creating man-made islands that look like a world map (buy your piece of the planet) and at home in SA, we’re about to begin creating stadiums for the Soccer World Cup in 2010.

But, none of these projects is as ambitious as the one commissioned in this week’s Parsha. That project is beyond anything ever attempted- or even imagined- by humans. Ironically, the only way to complete that project is to be half-baked.

Unveiled in the blazing hot desert, with almost no available natural resources, Moses’ project called on the people to build a Home. The Home would be simple- only 500 square metres, comprising just two rooms and a courtyard.

The catch? This small place was to be G-d’s home.

Impossible? Yes.

Doable? Apparently.

To get the project off the ground, Moshe called on the people to donate their gold, silver, copper, precious stones and other materials. He also taxed them all with a half-shekel tax. This money would be used to maintain the Tabernacle, G-d’s home in the Universe.

With all that gold and silver, you wonder why he wanted half a shekel donation.

Jewish thought identifies a fundamental lesson in this. No individual can build G-d’s home. As long as you perceive yourself as “complete”, you lack the capacity to create a home for the Infinite. As soon as you realize that you are only part of the picture- half a shekel- and you need at least one other person as your partner in progress, then you can achieve G-d’s dream.

G-d’s home doesn’t only belong in the desert. Over time, Jews have been led to China, New York, even Dubai and certainly South Africa- to build homes for G-d in all these places. As skyscrapers and malls shoot up around in an unprecedented global construction boom, we need to remember our own unique project.

Wherever a Jew is, he/ she can- must- transform his/ her environment into a better, more spiritual place.

You cannot do it alone, you need to partner with every other Jew you know. When you recognize you’re a halfwit on by yourself, you take the first step to do the impossible.

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