Naso - Take a Census
The Eternal One spoke to Moses: "Take a census … by their ancestral house and by their clans."
In honor of our graduating class and the students who crafted an amazing D'var Torah this week, I wanted to include excerpts from their speeches, in this our final "Friday Final" of the school year. The product of our work together was original, insightful and personal to each student - and deserves an additional place in the spotlight.
As we examined different rabbinic commentaries on one of the central elements of the Parashah – the Miskan – the themes of sacrifice and action rose to the surface. Carly Katz and Elie Bernstein both focused on the idea that the Mishkan was a model for parts of our lives.
Carly also explored ways the Mishkan was a way for the divine to live among the people and the way that can help us follow a more righteous path:
" ‘And they shall make me a holy place and I shall dwell among them.’ It is interesting that G-d tells Moses he would like to live among them, not live above them just to watch over the Jewish people. For me this is a very important statement that G-d tells Moses. The fact that G-d wants the Jews to build him the Mishkan makes the Jewish people feel honored. Not only do the Jews not want to let G-d down, but they also want a place to be in G-d’s presence. The Jews felt special because G-d wanted to dwell among them, not just watch over them. To build this Mishkan, the Jews would bring only their finest of items and make big sacrifices. The roof was a tapestry with linen and red, blue, and purple wool. The walls of the temple were made of thick wooden beams directly beside each other on three of the four sides. On the fourth side was a curtain. The Jewish people tried to make the Mishkan the absolute best it could be, and it was a success.
Since some suggest that the Mishkan actually represented the path to correct religious behavior, today, synagogues, families, and even Jewish communities try to use the Mishkan as a model for how they may create the world around them. What I mean by this, is that some use the Mishkan as a guide because they believe that if you honor G-d through your actions, G-d will watch over you and protect you. Other people think that if you are a Jewish person, as soon as you are born, G-d is watching over you and making sure that you are safe. But, this may not be true. In order for G-d to watch over you and protect you, you have to follow proper Jewish behavior. For example, you must follow all the commandments, do mitzvot, and more. It is a two way street. If you respect G-d, G-d will respect you. So, this Mishkan is used as an example today, because it is used as a reminder to do what is right and follow the laws of the Torah.”
Elie used the metaphor of the Miskan to examine how we can carve out holiness in our modern, technology filled lives:
"How many of you feel close to your home or have something special at home? (pause to take answers or count hands) In this case, G-d is asking to have a Mishkan be built for him so he can have a special place to stay for himself, like your home, so he can do things for us. If you built a house for someone, you would be in their debt. G-d is in this deal- the Jewish people built the Mishkan, now G-d will help them.
To me, Mishkan can be considered a figurative home, especially in our modern world filled with unending technology at our fingertips. We - build Mishkan - when we take a break from our smartphones. We create a metaphorical space for G-d when we take a pause from the internet. This is not to say we need to get rid of technology, but create space, a figurative home for Hashem in our minds and hearts. When we allow stress to run our lives we are living from our egos and literally Edging G-d Out. For us to have a relationship with Hashem, we need to build one, creating space and time to slow down and recharge our spiritual batteries.”
Elie also spoke of the importance of sacrifice, which was a key element to the way the Mishkan was to be used:
"Have any of you worked really hard hard on something and gotten better grades or a prize? In the Torah, it talks about something similar to that. It says, "Accept these from them for use in the service of the Tent of Meeting, and give them to the Levites according to their respective occupations.” G-d is telling Moses to give the Jewish people more sacrifices based on their work, so that each person will get to give what they have earned through work.
In my own life, sacrifice looks like helping Mr. Phillips out or studying for a test when I’d rather be doing something else. It’s focusing on the greater good which isn’t always immediately rewarded. It’s doing what feels good, even when no one is looking. When I think of sacrificing for greater rewards, I think of my parents and teachers, the ones who go out of their way each day to ensure I am, in equal parts, challenged and nurtured. Often, these adults will go without sleep or food to make sure us kids are on track.”
We received many compliments on the entire graduation service this year, including comments about the depth and insight of Carly and Elie. I could not agree more and will go further to say that their insights represent the deep and complex thoughts of all of our 5th graders and the way they have approached Torah all year.
Y’shar Koach and Mazaal Tov to them all!!