From the Rabbi – Parashat Trumah

V’asu li mikdash, v’shachanti b’tocham.

Make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”

Menachem Mendel of Kotzk asked: “Where does God dwell?” His Chassidim answered: “The whole world is filled with God’s glory!” Menachem Mendel corrected them saying, “God dwells anywhere we let God in.”

 So, where do we let God in?

We let God into our experience of natural wonder. As Abraham Joshua Heschel says, “We can never sneer at the stars. We can never mock the dawn.  The sublime grandeur evokes unhesitating, unflinching awe.” When we’re removed from nature, immersed in our tasks, or in the politics of life, or cloistered in our own self-absorption, we may well become cynical and sour, “but standing between earth and sky, we are silenced by the sight.”

We let God into our great life cycle moments, knowing the sacred as a baby emerges into the world, and knowing the power of God just as well when a beloved takes his or her last breath. We sense divine beauty under the wedding canopy and in special milestone moments of gratitude throughout life.

But where do we let God into our everyday?

The Talmud provides this beautiful image: “Before every human being, as he moves through the world, walks a bevy of angels, who herald his coming, crying out: ‘Make way for the icon of the divine!  Make way for the image of God!'”

Can we rise to the challenge of seeing God in every human face we encounter?

Can we rise to the challenge of releasing Godliness from the places in our world where goodness is trapped in selfishness or greed?

I say, yes, we can!

Nachman of Bratzlov teaches that we begin with a nekudat tuvah, one drop of good we have done in the world. We start by identifying that tiny moment in which we know we’ve let God in, and build from there, action by action, smile by smile.

When we provide for a shiva home, welcome our refugee families, sing hymns of praise together in authentic joy, or stop to notice spring beginning to bloom, we let God in. When we begin a meal with motzi, enter our homes with mezuzah, commence each day with mode ani, we let God in. When we begin each conversation aware that we are talking to an image of God, we let God in.

Let’s build from here, from what we’ve already accomplished, from who we are in this moment, knowing that we have the capacity to fashion ourselves as sanctuaries, make a sanctuary of our community, and, ultimately, of the world.

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Don’t miss…

March 11 – Purim with Or Shalom

FEATURING: the Or Shalom band and MAGICIAN Ray Wong!

Celebrate Purim with Or Shalom as we embark on an evening of illustrated and lively Megillah reading! We’ll sing, eat and enjoy music, magic, and community-created images for the story of Esther!

So come show off your favourite costume, and bring your dancing shoes as the music will continue after the reading! We’ll have Hamantaschen and Purim tunes waiting for you.

This is a free event. Please bring potluck snacks for all to enjoy 🙂

RSVP to programs@orshalom.ca

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Join us for United in Compassion

March 7 – United in Compassion

Multifaith Devotional Service, followed by roundtable conversations and dessert.

This coming Tuesday evening, March 7, 7-9:30PM we will be visited by 16 different faith leaders, across the spectrum of Vancouver’s sacred traditions, who will offer devotions in a multi-faith service meant to elevate our unity in compassion. Afterward, these faith leaders will lead round-table conversations over tea and desserts. We will speak of where we find hope in these times.

If you have not put this important event on your calendar, please do so, so that we represent Jews in Vancouver as ready to join an ecumenical resistance of the xenophobia that has been unleashed here and elsewhere.

We present this evening in co-sponsorship with the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster.

Please RSVP to emu.vancouver@gmail.com or call 604-682-3848 ext. 30.

This is a FREE event, open to all.

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Spiritual “Hearing” Parashat Mishpatim – Rabbi Hannah’s Weekly Reflection

Spiritual “Hearing”
Parashat Mishpatim

To what are we enslaved? How does our slavery hold us back, nailed to the doorpost? And what would we hear if we freed ourselves from the comforts that swaddle us, muffling the still small voice of our souls, of our dreams beckoning us, of God calling from the Mystery?

This week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim (Judgments), tells of the slave who does not want to go free saying, “I love my master.” We read of the judgment against him – that his ear be set against the doorpost and mutilated by piercing with an awl. The chassidic master Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter of Ger (1847-1905) asks, “Why the ear?” And he answers: It was not for the slavish, robotic performance of prescribed acts that we were created, rather, for a continuous, passionate “listening” to the great Voice beyond human masters, and beyond ourselves.

The slave who chooses slavery is judged for deafening himself to the call to freedom, aspiration, and forward movement out of the narrow places. He is judged for not hearing the call of allegiance to a higher or deeper Master. He’s judged for being stuck, as any of us can be when we fall in love with one sort of thralldom or another. We, too, choose slavery when we become too attached to what we know and what has become habitual. We deafen ourselves when we choose complacency rather than engagement, when we filter the voices that inspire our continual unfolding.

Further on, Mishpatim tells of the People’s response to hearing Torah as revealed at Sinai. They declare, “We shall do, and we shall hear!” – affirming their vitality and their openness to the future. The chassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav teaches, “We shall do” refers to our fulfillment of commandments, doing what is right and what is expected of us. “We shall hear” refers to our attention to what is enigmatic and mysterious, what we don’t yet understand, and what we will never fully understand.

Whereas the slave in love with slavery has deafened himself to the “call”, the emancipated nation at the foot of Sinai responds in heightened awareness of a spiritual voice that is always whispering, and they pledge allegiance to be attentive – not just to required acts, but to the sounds of the universe. They promise to continue to listen, to learn, to grow, and to balance action with hearing – hearing the Torah that was given at Sinai and listening for the eternal evolution of revelation in every plane.

Are our ears nailed to a doorpost, or are we free to hear with our hearts?

With permission of the Rabbis Without Borders blog on myjewishlearning.com.

– Rabbi Hannah

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