Based on the winter storm warning set for 5 pm tonight, we have decided to cancel events at temple tonight, so that people can keep safe, warm and dry. We encourage you to have a family dinner, light the candles, say kiddush over wine or juice, and pick up or defrost a challah.
If you want to say some prayers, you can download the iT’filah app: for a small cost, you can have Mishkan Tefillah’s Friday night service on your tablet, complete with some music, some reading. It’s a great app for situations like this.
This week’s torah portions, the last two in the book of Exodus/Shemot, describe the completion of the mishkan, our moveable sanctuary in the wilderness. In an essay in the Women’s Torah Commentary (a text of our holy text I thoroughly recommend), scholar Rachel Adler talks about why we need the plethora of detail (that appears twice). She explains that the map of the mishkan is the map our ancestors saw of the cosmos. Then, she walks us through the way ritual and symbol allow us to connect meaning with objects. She used the mighty menorah as an example: the pure gold menorah, with cups, calyxes and petals, the cups shaped like almond blossoms, each stem shaped like branches. The menorah had to be lit by a priest from a ramp, because it was so tall, and it looked like a tree that was on fire, but was not consumed… sound familiar yet? Each time we light the menorah, we are connecting to the moment when a bewildered shepherd first encountered the Holiness that propelled us on our journey of liberation.
Adler also reminds us that each time we light candles, like Shabbat candles, or the candles we will light before our seders in a few weeks, we are connecting to the metaphor of the light of consciousness and of knowledge, and the source of that light. Each shabbat we bring that light into our home or the synagogue, we are connecting to the Source of all the knowledge we value.
Keep safe and shabbat shalom.