Last week, I shared with you the sad news of the passing of Michael Brookstone, a member of our Introduction to Judaism programme. Many of you met this gentle man, who despite the many hardships he had to endure in his life, always had a smile for others and the will to continue to follow his dreams.
What has moved me the most after I had to announce his death is to learn how many hearts he had touched and how he had contributed in his own, unique way to make Bet David a warm home for so many—a place were God can be found, because of the people who come here.
Our Torah portion opens with the word from God to Moses: “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves them.” and some verses later God explains for what those gifts are needed. “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Ex 25,2 and 8).
Studying these two sentences, we learn something fundamental about any place of worship, any Shul, church, mosque or temple. It is not what we give and how much, only an open heart will provide the space for God. Rashi sees the gifts demanded by Terumah not as dictated practice but rather as an intentional choice. Not only are the gifts voluntary, but also, Rashi suggests, they come from the heart as expressions of good will. The first sanctuary for the Israelites was not only built with gold, silver, wood and so on, but more so by all the volunteer work, and an immense sense of community, creating something special and unique.
Michael’s contribution to Bet David was his optimism, which came from his heart. May his memory inspire all of us to open our hearts alike, creating a sanctuary for God among us.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
Torah Reading Shabbat Terumah
Exodus 25:1-27:19 Reading: Ex 25:13 – 25:36
Plaut p. 546; Hertz p. 327
Haftarah : I Kings 5:26-6:13
Plaut p.559; Hertz p.336