Parshat Terumah (5771)

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An archaeologist was digging in the Negev Desert in Israel and came upon a casket containing a well preserved mummy.  After examining it, he called the curator of a prestigious natural-history museum.

I’ve just discovered a 3,000 year-old mummy of a man who died of heart failure!” the excited archaeologist exclaimed. To which the curator replied, “Bring him in. We’ll check it out.

A week later, the amazed curator called the archaeologist. “You were right about the mummy’s age and cause of death. How in the world did you know?” “Easy,” he replied. “There was a piece of paper in his hand that said 10,000 shekels on Goliath!

Many of you will have seen Michelangelo’s masterful sculpture of David and his slingshot, presumably just before his encounter with the mighty Goliath. The statue was created in 1501, took over three years to complete and stands seventeen feet tall. Michelangelo was only twenty six years old at the time, yet he was given the project because of his tremendous sculpting ability. He himself maintained that his skill lay only in an ability to see the figure hidden within the square block of solid stone – all he needed to do was to uncover it.

Moving now to a spiritual and holy parallel, in today’s parsha we read of the formation of the beautiful golden menorah in the Mishkan (the tabernacle in the desert). This menorah, crafted from the purest gold, was formed in an unusual manner. The Torah tells us it was “miksha achat” – carved out of one solid piece – that instead of welding together the six branches around a central stem and base, Moses was told by G-d to craft the menorah out of a solid block of gold. The branches, base and stem, and all the intricate design in the precious metal was done in a fashion normally used for sculpting from stone.

What could be the reason for this? It seems to make a difficult task so much more difficult. One of the beautiful explanations to this question is that the seven branches represent seven different types within the Jewish nation – all different yet all carved from an identical source.

Within the wider Jewish community there is such incredible diversity it is a wonder to behold. Walk to the Kotel (Western Wall) on any given Friday night and you will see Jews from every land, that speak every language. You will see those who are Ashkenaz, and those who are Sefard, Litvaks, Chassidim and Yekers; you will see Jews who have always been religious and Jews who have never been religious, those who are Jewish by birth and those who are Jewish by choice; Jews from India and China, Ireland and Alaska; Jews with black skin, white skin and all shades in between.

A vibrant living atlas of Jewish history, each representing a branch of the golden menorah, carved from the one block of gold. That is the story of the Jewish people, together, dispersed and together again, along the route collecting people from different lands and different cultures. But what is crucial to remember is that we are all part of the same unit.

The rabbi with the long white beard is one branch of the same menorah as a rebellious teenager with random body piercings and his or her own graffiti tag – they come from the same source.

It is always very painful to hear from people that the reason they do not attend shul or connect to the Jewish community is because they feel different, rejected or not welcomed. Simply because someone has a lack of Jewish education or knowledge or strong Jewish identity does not make them any less valuable to our people. In fact some of the greatest giants in Jewish history came from what we might consider “interesting” backgrounds.

So let us remember what is truly important. That to keep the light of the menorah burning we must be “miksha achat” – all part of one solid unit, serving G-d together in harmony.

And then truly we will merit to see the building of the Third Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) – where we can once again see the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) light the golden menorah.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Zalman Lent

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