Here at Ezra, we have had many opportunities to celebrate and embrace newness this week! We had the simultaneous start of February and Adar, and lots of snow here on our campus. We also began a new cycle of fifth graders reading Torah for the first time and had not one, but two days to celebrate the new month by reciting Hallel.
It is so wonderful to have our classrooms and hallways filled with song and we are taking the directive of being joyful in the month(s) of Adar VERY seriously.
All of our cause for celebration also has me thinking about our space and how we use it. And what a week to be thinking about this! The parasha this week, Terumah, introduces the Mishkan, a dwelling place and sanctuary for God’s presence. The specifications for the construction of the Mishkan are so detailed, that we actually have a pretty good idea of what it may have looked like. Additionally, The specific materials needed are numerous and not necessarily easy to obtain.
With all of these details, a question arose for me. Was the Mishkan holy because of God’s presence, or was it made holy because of the work and intention that went into creating it (and the setup and breakdown it constantly required)? And therefore, are our spaces holy because of what they are, or is it because of what we do there?
Maybe this is actually not such a fair question to ask, or maybe it’s more of a trick question. For me at least, the Mishkan is the perfect combination of the two. In our own lives, we can enter into and engage with spaces that are holy because of where they are, who built them, or their role in history, but we also have the amazing ability to bring our own skills, gifts, and experiences and make even the most profane spaces holy with our presence.
Our space here at Ezra is quite different from the Mishkan that is described in the Torah. We are blessed with a sturdy structure and lots of space - both inside and on our grounds. Our historic relationship with Congregation B’nai Jacob means that our students have access to beautiful ritual spaces, but are also quite adept at turning a classroom, parking lot, or even a nook in a hallway into a space for prayer, text study, or spiritual conversation.
In our upper school tefillah this morning, a fifth-grader read Torah for the first time and it reminded me of the skills and training that our students receive and how they are a gift that they will have forever, whether in a synagogue setting, or a temporary holy space in a place where prayers are needed. I, too, have benefited from these gifts and I was filled with pride this morning to see new participants celebrating these benchmarks.
As we move into these joyous months of Adar, my blessing for all of us is that we can continue to bring holiness to our spaces - the profane ones as well as the sacred.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a Chodesh Tov!