Friday, February 4, 2022

Start with the WHY

Start with WHY. It’s important to reflect and engage in soul searching as to why we attach importance to various pursuits in life. In our professional lives and workplace, we can fairly easily communicate what we are doing and (if competent) how to perform the tasks. A more complex question is the WHY of the job. Is it merely to get a paycheck or is there some more noble mission that you are pursuing? I think this challenge to find your WHY applies to the purpose of having a shul. Most can easily explain what a shul is or how to pray or learn. That is the easy part. The WHY a community or neighborhood needs a shul requires more reflection. Is it simply to have individuals gather for a minyan and daven together or is there a higher and more noble purpose? If individuals gather for a minyan in a home or elsewhere, does that serve the same purpose as having a communal Beit Haknesset? This week's Parsha of Teruma provides an insight into this conversation. G-d told Moshe to instruct the Jewish People. וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם. This is translated as “You shall make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them”. The mandate to create a central house of worship with the Mishkan followed by the Beit Hamikdash is articulated clearly in the Parsha. In the simplest sense, it's for the Divine presence to manifest itself in this mundane world. Of course, G-d’s presence is everywhere, but one can connect to the Shechina in a place that was consecrated for worship and prayer. There is much distraction and noise and it is not easy to find that escape that provides a means for that connection. The Mishkan and later the Beit Hamikdash offered that opportunity for Man to connect with G-d in the most ideal manner. The Talmud teaches us that in the absence of a Beit Hamikdash, a Beit Haknesset or shul can fill that void. It is far more than a collection of individuals praying. It is a group of individuals transformed into a Kehilla that is seeking to connect with the Divine Presence in a space that has been consecrated to allow for the G-d’s presence to manifest with no parallel. A hallowed space such as a shul should be an area with the respect it deserves. Any sort of frivolity should be minimized or eliminated. It is a privilege for a community to gather in this sacred space to connect with the Almighty. In every consideration as to what direction our shul embraces for the future, it is not sufficient for one to communicate the WHAT and HOW. We must confront the WHY of our shul. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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