Why do we need this sanctuary? This room, with its Torahs and arks, the pews and prayerbooks, the ark and the Torah. Don't get me wrong, I love when we gather in here, especially when the heat is working ... There's a sense of community, friendship, meaning, power, spirituality -- all the reasons we want to worship in the first place. But why do we have to do it in this specific place?
In our torah portion, T'rumah, God instructs the building of the first sanctuary, the mishkan. God says:
Speak to the people of Israel, that they bring me an offering; from every man that gives it willingly with his heart you shall take my offering.
The Israelites bring all sorts of materials together so that they can construct the tabernacle. They bring oils, rams' skins dyed red, onyx stones, gold, silver, linen ... oh, and don't forget the goat's hair!
The Israelites bring t'rumah - gifts. They contribute to the building of their future home.
And this room is our home. This sanctuary is a gateway to our temple.
You and the other members of our synagogue sitting here tonight do not just belong to Congregation Children of Israel; you help to continually create and strengthen Congregation Children of Israel.
I think this is why God instructs the Israelites to each contribute to the mishkan. In order for God to truly dwell amongst the community, it's important that everyone in the community contributes t'rumah.
The mishkan is not a start-up company. God did not look for a small number venture capitalists to insure the building of the structure. God looked to everyone in the community.
And so, I ask each of us what our contribution is, our t'rumah. Each of us has talents, abilities and knowledge to contribute to the community. What are your gifts that you bring to us? It is these gifts that make our congregation.
After the Israelites bring a surplus of materials, God then says:
Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.
I don't think God is so vain that God requires us to build a specific room where we can pray and come together. But we need a regular meeting place. The sanctuary is for us.
But it's only after we bring our gifts, our contributions, our t'rumah that God dwells amongst us. It's not that God needs us to bring physical materials of wealth and substance. God does, however, ask that we bring our most precious possession - ourselves.