That was moving

The Tabernacle is portable. There is more than one reason why.  Of course, to be practical for journeying through the wilderness it needs to be movable. But it occurs to me that the ability to carry it from one place to another may allude to a more subtle form of transportation: how concrete deeds, like making and moving something, can transport us.

Actions often do carry us to new terrain. Think of how you feel after completing a worthy task like practicing the piano, or adding a journal entry, or hitting the treadmill. Even if at first you’re a little tired, your mood and mind will soon have found new bearings. In this way, carrying out an act can carry you out from where you currently are.

Nearly seventy times in this week’s Torah passages that introduce the Tabernacle, we meet the word ‘do’. It will recur hundreds of times in the remaining chapters of the Book of Exodus. Indeed the Torah’s vast system of 613 laws is classified by acts you ‘do’ and those you ‘don’t do’. Yet tucked into the granular details about beams and sockets is a vital life-lesson: rote doing isn’t merely robotic, it can also inch you forward to a new vantage point. Let’s call it an advantage point.

It’s no accident that this lesson is introduced in the context of a prayer-structure dedicated to a life of service. The poet Tagore wrote: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”

Activate the things that matter to you which serve to help and lift others. Send that ‘check-in’ text. Make that ‘just-missing-you’ call. Write that thank-you note you’ve been intending to write (and itemize your gratitude).

Doing so may just relocate you enough to a place where your deeds and your dreams rhyme with joy.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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