Aaron Benson

A Day of Holiness, Not Hate

Haman’s decree came early this year. A group, likely of little significance itself, but magnified to gargantuan size by social media, has called for today to be a day of hate.  A day to attack Jewish communities and Jews.

Still, if it weren’t already Shabbat, such a roa gazera might bring us to want to gather in shul anyway.

To feel safe. To think about the things, we hold dear. The precious ones in our lives. How could my children, my grandchildren, myself, my religion, be singled out like this be assaulted this way? Why should I ever be made to feel this kind of foreboding and fear?

I think about the Lamp Stand in the Tabernacle – made of solid gold, a symbol of unity. And it makes me think of the hanukkiot of our days bringing us warmth and light in dark times.

I think of the Holy Ark – the repository of our heritage, beautiful – truly gold on the inside and out – all good and all holy.  And in our synagogues, the place where a child or grandchild or you or I stood for b’nai mitzvah, for blessings, weddings, and more.

I think of the Acacia Wood Poles – atzei shittim – the foundations the Tabernacle, representing our synagogue, of our traditions – generations who toiled to see that we could be in such a place free of hatred and bigotry. Now are those strong posts threatened to be dislodged?

Proclaim the beauty of these things as our Torah does. Share our tradition and proudly show it. I know that’s easier said than done sometimes but really – are you going to tuck away your necklace, are you going to take down your mezuzah? Are you going to change your hair or your nose or your last name? Would it help if you did?

Like Esther is told by Mordecai – don’t think you will be protected by hiding your Jewishness.

Also – look around again – we have this beautiful sanctuary but all those things in Parshat Terumah – they only exist as a story now – not even the scroll itself but the shared consciousness of the Jewish people is where the tabernacle resides now.

Truly that is a sanctuary in which God can Always dwell.

Each of us is one of those sockets, or loops, or dolphin skins (they probably weren’t really dolphin skins).

But each of us is the story.  And therefore, our story will always go on.  It exists in countless sanctuaries.

All it is for us today, like every day, is to live out the purpose of the sanctuary – of being where God lives in the world and from where God can act to make the world holy in a beautiful way, in a lasting way, and yes, even in a safe way – for after all the Levites and the Kohanim were the guardians of the actual Mishkan just as they were if they actual Bet HaMikdash. It is part of the story to have safety and security.

But that is only ancillary to the real inventory in Terumah, which is the story that we carry like those Levites did, the story which we proclaim with our whole lives, and which we make eternal when we share it with others whether our own community and children or even with those who hate us.

In fact, they hate us because of our dedication to always bringing forth holiness in all places and that is something they can never do, and it scares them. We scare them.

We scare them with our love with our dedication to family and tradition, to God. To healing the world and making it a better place.

We have always scared people who lack the courage to believe in such things no matter what.

More than ending by saying – so be strong and of good courage – I would end as the parashah does. With one last detail, not a conclusion to the story, because the story never ends. Just a description of that which stands in the holy courtyard. As we do today:

וְכׇל־יִתְדֹ֥ת הֶחָצֵ֖ר נְחֹֽשֶׁת׃

That each of you is of precious materials and will always stand in the court of the Lord.

About the Author
Aaron Benson is a Conservative rabbi on Long Island, serving at the North Shore Jewish Center. He is the current president of the Suffolk County Board of Rabbis and a chaplain for the Suffolk County Police Department.
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