Shabbat Greetings from Stuart Skolnick

Stuart Skolnick“What’s a cubit?” 

I see you smiling because so many of you, like me, remember the Bill Cosby comedy routine with God instructing Noah to build an ark. Once again in Vayak’heil God instructs the Israelites in a major building project and this week’s parsha has lots of cubits. As in the Flood story, the building instructions are very specific and detailed but the finished product is something very different. Our ancestors, recently freed slaves, were not quite ready for the concept of an incorporeal God and needed something tangible to help them relate to God. After 400 years of Egyptian iconography it was unrealistic to think that a God one could not see would be easy to relate to. So the Israelites are instructed to build the Mishkan, a portable sanctuary. This served as a model for the Temple which stood in Jerusalem; the relationship between the Mishkan and the Temple could be the subject for a different blog post. 

But what happened when the Temple was destroyed? The Rabbis of that time could have “folded their tent” but the power of close to 2,000 years of past history-even then-would not allow them to do so. Their reactions were brilliant and have served us for the nearly 2,000 years from the Temple’s destruction to the present day. Prayer substituted for animal sacrifice, portability replaced a cultic center, and Judaism more than ever became a faith tied to time rather than place. In Heschel’s remarkably beautiful turn of phrase, Shabbat (also heavily mentioned this week as in the past few) became a “cathedral in time”.  Although we can have beautiful worship spaces, they are not essential for Jewish prayer. When we pray is more important than where we pray. I hope that each of us can follow the direct line from Mishkan to Temple to cathedral that leads us to sundown this evening and the onset of our Shabbat. When you take a break from your worldly and weekly activities I hope that you’ll feel the meaning in the hours of Shabbat regardless of where you are physically located. May that sacred time help you find the Shalom of Shabbat!

Author: Melissa