T’rumah, Exodus 25:1-27:19
16 February 2018/ 1 Adar 5778
“Let them build me a mikdash, a place of holiness” says God, “and I will dwell in their midst.” (Exodus 25:8)
Not “in it” but “in the middle of them.”
If you can successfully build a place of holiness, then I will [already] be present in your community.
And what constitutes a place of holiness? A place whose metal portions are gold and silver, copper, and bronze, but not iron, the weapon of war. (Exodus 35:5)
A place which may not even be built using iron tools to shape the stone. (Exodus 20:22) Nor should the sounds of striking or beating or hammering even be heard in the place. (I Kings 6:7, describing Solomon building the First Temple in Jerusalem)
A place of holiness is a place where weapons and tools which are also used to make war are intentionally excluded.
It’s not that those tools don’t have their place: In Solomon’s building, the stone was shaped at the quarry. (I Kings 6:7 again) While one can make strong arguments in support of pacifism and non-violence in Judaism, and war is to be a last resort (“When you approach a town to attack it, you shall offer it terms of peace” Deuteronomy 20:10), Torah does not go so far as to ban the military.
But if you want to build a society in which God dwells, you focus your intention on creating spaces where reminders of war and even the sounds of violent physical conflict are excluded.
And when you have created those spaces, then God is already dwelling among you.
May the memories and lives of those who were murdered in Parkland, Florida this week by a young man who should never have had access to a weapon of war … may their memories join with those of all other victims of gun violence to galvanize us into action. May we create a society in which God dwells among us because we are able to exclude weapons of war and violence from our holy public space.
כן יהי רצון/Keyn y’hi ratson — We know this is God’s will. It is up to us to make it into our will.