Pirke Avot 3:4--“Rabbi Shimon said, three people who ate at the same table and did not speak words of Torah are as if they had eaten from sacrifices to idols, as the verse states ‘For all [such] tables are full of vomit and filth without room’ (Isaiah 28:8). But three who ate at the same table and did speak words of Torah are as if they had eaten from the God’s table, as it states, ‘And the angel said to me, ‘This altar is the table that is before the Adonai” (Ezekiel 41:22).”
February 16, 2018
1 Adar 5778
Shabbat Terumah Exodus 25:1-27:19
Many of us believe that God exists everywhere. God doesn’t belong to any one religion, any one country, any particular religion, or any particular people. God exists everywhere. There is a verse in our Torah portion this week, a famous verse that is often seen inscribed above an Ark in a Jewish sanctuary which reads, “Make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” Many believe that this means literally to build God houses of worship with sanctuaries. After the events of the last few days in Parkland, FL, I started thinking about another interpretation of this verse. Maybe, just maybe, God didn’t mean a small, physically limiting space, but maybe God wanted this whole world to be God’s sanctuary. Maybe, just maybe, God wanted us to create a world that this transcendent, up-in-the-heaven God, could finally come down to and inhabit. God wasn’t speaking about my Temple’s sanctuary or my friend’s church’s sanctuary, but the whole world.
Before God inhabits this earthly sanctuary, we need to do some work. That work includes figuring out how to make this a safe place for children to learn, people to worship, people to party, people to go to work, or just people to live. And yes! This means figuring out a better way to live with guns. In case you haven’t figured it out children have died in a place where they learn. People have died where they worship. People have died where they party. People have died where they work. People have died where they live. It is guns doing the murdering. Not everyone of these murderers is certifiably mentally ill though I would like to think that anyone who takes an AR-15 or a handgun and points it at another human being and pulls the trigger is mentally ill, but it just isn’t so. Yes, there are knives that kill people and cars that kill people, but it is mainly guns, and the trigger of all the guns used in murdering is pulled by a human being.
Before God inhabits this earthly sanctuary, we need to do some work. We need the members of congress to do something to control the easy access to guns. There is a video on Facebook that comes around periodically showing a man walking through an office carrying the type of gun that existed when the Second Amendment was written. He raises the muzzle loader and shoots. Everyone in the office runs around screaming. Meanwhile the shooter needs to reload his gun which just takes some time. That is the type of gun our founding fathers knew. They had no idea about semi-automatic rifles that could blast through doors like those that were heard in some of the kid’s videos from Douglas High School. I heard that there are about 8,000,000 of these guns out there. 99.99% will never be pointed at another human being, but that .01% can kill so many people. We need real leaders to make this earth a safe place and get these guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, and we need common sense, gun safe and secure laws to protect not just our school children, but all of us.
Before God inhabits this earthly sanctuary, we need to do some work. We all need to take a breath and begin to ask what kind of world do we want to live in and what kind of world do we want our children or grandchildren to grow up in. Just like I have so many times, I read the beautiful words written about those who were murdered. They had hopes and dreams and talents and families and friends. One man with an assault rifle ended all of that. We will mourn and cry and shake our fists, but will we get any closer to making this a sanctuary for God to dwell upon us? We didn’t after Newtown or Orlando or Texas or Las Vegas. Will Parkland finally be the place? Or, again, is it just too soon for us to bring God and create a place where God will be able to rest and dwell?
When you light your Shabbat candles this evening light one for each of the families in pain and suffering. They need our light. Light the other candle for those who can make a difference in this world. We need them now.
Rabbi Jon Adland