Among the scattered red clown noses and glitter I danced.
It was the closing hours of Limmud Los Angeles in 2010 and Craig Taubman, of Sinai Temple’s ‘Friday Night Live’ fame, was holding a Rosh Chodesh Adar get-together. With the cascading electric guitar riff of ‘Lord Get Me High’ by Shlomo Carlebach melting my limbs, I imagined the new month of Adar washing over, with its promise of joy, general abandon and spirit of community at play. On Rosh Chodesh, that spirit found expression in exquisite and delicious dance.
Dancing with me were children, teens, singles, young-marrieds and grandparents, drawn from across the Los Angeles Jewish community and internationally; the room reverberated with their laughter and their song.
Three years later, it’s almost the month of Adar again, but this time, I am track chair of Limmud NY’s Social and Communal initiative, Limmud NY Connections!
The Hebrew word Terumah is not a gift or offering born of duty, not a desire to please or curry favour, not an attempt to impress, but an unconditional and open-hearted personal response to the call of community:
‘[…] Of every person who gives it willingly with their heart, shall you take my terumah’
Volunteering - in no matter how small a way - is the hallmark of Parshat Terumah as it is of all Limmud events and conferences. A Torah commandment – and yet, it cannot be commanded in the literal sense. It must be fulfilled ‘with a full heart’ and this quality of unconditionality forms the backdrop to the second Mitzvah;
‘And let them make for me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them’.
This is what the Mishkan represents.
The choice of how we choose to communicate is in our hands. We can give baubles and trinkets with our words or we can experience intense, richly layered conversation and dialogue with those among whom we live and work, when ‘…the glory of God’s presence (in each of us) fills the Sanctuary’ (Shemot 40.34) and we are fully communicative in our encounters with those around us.
This is a pertinent and contemporary message for those of us involved in community-facing projects such as Limmud. Consensual community building needs more than vision and visionaries; it needs to be inclusive of all members of the community, no matter their social or personal status, their levels of knowledge or observance or whether they are giving in gold, silver or brass. Such inclusivity is the quintessence of what can truly be called a Makom Mikdash – a place of sanctity.