Saturday, February 12, 2005

Purim -- Not Politics!

I just finished the book Let My Nation Live, by Yosef Deutsch about the Purim story and miracle. Besides being an excellent book, it does send a reminder about how everything works...even politics.

Imagine being an ordinary Jew at the time, going along your business. You attend a party at King Achashverosh's palace, a short time later it's found that the second in command to the king is out to destroy the Jewish People in all the land. Next you know the queen is Jewish, we fast and pray for three days, and somehow through a strange turn of events -- the Jewish People are saved.

You could say, "Wow, isn't it amazing how politics works. That Jewish lobby must be pretty strong, I'll make sure to support them the next time they call me for a donation."

However you would be missing the point. G-d is always in the background orchestrating the events...even if we don't see His hand clearly. Purim is an example of how G-d is always there, even in politics. While for some reason we see politics as outside the realm of G-d's involvement, this is totally 180 degrees from the truth. Politics is one the ways that G-d gets our attention.

With all the craziness in the world, from the tznunami of southeast Asia, to the persecution of Jews in Europe and around the world, to the move toward removing Jews from their homes in Israel, we must pay attention to the signs that are right in front of our eyes.

This is not to say that we should not be involved in politics. Absolutely not. We must do what we can to make a difference through natural means, however...

We must realize that politics are run by G-d. When we see events that don't make sense, we must take a minute and think about what we can learn from it. Purim is an amazing time. This is the time when the Jewish People re-accepted the Torah with a full heart.

It is time for us to do the same. I suggest that since Adar is upon us, and Purim is on its way, we need to look to the teachings of Esther and Mordechai to show us the right path. We need not be afraid of the wicked...G-d is there for us. It is up to us to show G-d that we trust in Him, and we will follow His Torah.

Let's start by saying the first line of the Shema every night before going to bed, declaring that G-d is One, and there is nothing else.

Shema Yisroel, Ado-nai Elo-heinu, Ado-nai Echad.

Listen Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One.

We can also light Shabbat candles at the right time on Friday nights. By acknowledging Shabbat, we make clear that G-d created the world, continues to create the world, and is involved in each of our lives. Check your siddur for the instructions and prayer.

If you are already doing these two mitzvot written above, find something to involve G-d in your everyday life. G-d has to be One with you. G-d is not only for the home, G-d is for your business dealings as well as studying Torah.

On a final note, the Jewish People stood at Mount Sinai and accepted the Torah like one man with one heart. We MUST treat every Jew with respect, no matter who they are, what denomination they belong to, whether we agree with their politics. We must show love to one another, this is the only way.

Even if you are not religious, or even if you is not about labels. It is about reality. Do one mitzvah. Just one mitzvah, it will make a huge difference in the world. The world does not run on politics (or money), it runs by mitzvot.

Just remember Purim -- not politics.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Parshat Trumah

This parsha speaks about the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. This was the moveable sanctuary that housed the ark and within the ark, the Tablets that we received at Mount Sinai. This portable Mishkan would later be replaced by King Solomon with the Temple in Jerusalem.

Why did we need this Mishkan? Did the Jews wandering the desert need something else to bring with them on the way?

An explanation for why we need the Mishkan and later the Temple is important to think about, even today. It is important for us to understand that it is not because G-d needs a home on Earth or that we can confine G-d to one place. Or, G-d forbid, that He assumes physical shape. We know that G-d is everywhere and is involved in everything from the large events to helping us pass our exams.

When we speak about making a dwelling place for G-d it is much more than needing a hammer and some nails. The beginning of the parsha speaks about how the Jewish People contributed to the creation of the Mishkan, and were excited to do so. Up until this point in time, G-d had been doing everything for us without us being able to repay in any small way, even in appreciation. Spirituality had been given to us. We received the Ten Commandment and the Torah a couple chapters back and we’d been appointed G-d’s representatives in the world. Now it was time for us to work and incorporate our spirituality. We wanted to contribute to this Mishkan as showing that incorporation of G-dliness into our everyday lives. The giving of the Torah was a one time event. The Mishkan was to be taken with us every day, where ever we would travel.

How does this have an impact on our lives today?

There’s an interesting verse 25:8, “And they shall make Me (G-d) a sanctuary and I will dwell within them.”

This does not make sense. It should say, ‘They will make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell within it.’

This is the point. G-d does not need a physical house. This is the message for today. We are responsible to bring G-dliness into ourselves and our surroundings. We have to make ourselves holy by making ourselves into a Mishkan, and bringing holiness where ever we go. Holiness is not confined to the synagogue, or a place of worship, or relegated to our rabbis. It should be something that becomes part of our innate being as ordinary Jews in our every day actions.