When I went to Yeshivah for all those years, I was trained in Talmudic logic, Halacha and Jewish mysticism (a.k.a. Chassidus).
Lately, I can tell you all about zoning issues, tax-rebates on donations, civil engineering and construction- and hopefully some Gemorah too.
These are the joys of building a new Shul: Meet with Julian (he's the architect), change the plans and then change them again. Phone the town-planner (for the 3rd time) to find out if the zoning has been approved. Check the bank account and realize nobody’s anonymously dropped a million in there (yet).
Dreaming of a new Shul was exciting; waking up and making it happen is challenging.
Thankfully, this week’s Parsha offers some inspiration. We’re going to read about the first Shul ever built- the Mishkan-Sanctuary in the desert.
Admittedly, they didn’t have the funding issues that we do (every Jew that left Egypt led 90 donkey-loads of gold and silver with him), but there’s something about that story that puts in all in perspective.
In particular, what strikes me is how much attention the Torah pays to this story. Torah, in its usual succinct way, dedicates about 8 paragraphs to Creation. Judaism’s keystone, the Ten Commandments, is summarized in a single paragraph. Yet, the story of the world’s first Shul occupies three whole Torah portions!
Creation, the Exodus, splitting the Sea and the giving of the Torah are things that Hashem did. That’s not the focus of Judaism- or of Life.
This week we begin reading about what we do. We make Hashem’s home on Earth, and we bring G-d’s goal for Creation to fruition.
It may take longer than we’d like, and bring some stress along the way, but building a home for G-d is the greatest project a person can ever hope to be involved in.
May Hashem bless our efforts- as he blessed the efforts of the Jews in the desert.