Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Like A Child She Is Pure, She Is Not To Blame ( Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia "Help Is On The Way")

Finally, we thought it would never happen. We waited and waited. Even suffering through a snow day and the interminable shoveling of the driveway, the melting and the eventual re-freezing of the snow, we have muddled our way through winter. Now finally, the first vestiges of spring are here. My children have been listening to me for weeks, literally counting down the days. And this week it happened. No, it is not quite spring in Toronto or anywhere in the Northeast. But the other day, I forced my children to watch the sports highlights. There they were, stretching, joking, jogging and tossing the ball. Pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training and position players will be down in Florida and Arizona in a few more days. Spring Training is here, and my children think I am nuts. However, as I grow older, this ritual, this symbol of hope springing eternal, this childlike enthusiasm for being outside in the sun, and returning to the simplest aspects of childhood, reminds me of the simplicity and innocence of childhood. As a child I used to listen to the baseball games on the radio. The greatest thing was to be able to listen to spring training games on the radio. In the middle of February, I could imagine the simplicity of spring training stadium. I could imagine the colors, the breeze blowing, people casually dressed in their Florida spring clothing.  I could close my eyes and picture players laughing, casually signing autographs, relaxed and chatting with the crowd. More so than going to a major league ball park, attending spring training games was incredibly fun. Going to a spring training game is like going back in time to ones old childhood, playing with your friends on the local high school baseball field. It is approachable, it is pure. This is where the Baseball Gods dwell, in the simplicity of the spring training facility, in the spring air, and the eternal hope and optimism of a new season..
            This week’s Parshah is Terumah. Terumah means “a portion”. In the context of this week’s Parshah, the portion in question is the portion of wealth that B’nai Yisroel would dedicate to the construction of the  Aron, the ark that would hold the Luchot Habrit (the stone tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written), the lamp, the table, and the material for the Ohel Moed (the tent of the meeting). All of which comprised the Mishkan or the Tabernacle. If you are in construction, interior design, or architecture, the details in Parshah Terumah are fascinating. If your not in any of those occupations then all the details might seem, shall we say, a bit dry. Whether a fan or not, whether an architect or not, there are certain things that we can all appreciate, and there are certain concepts that increase our appreciation and perspective for the Mishkan as well as the ball park. Moshe was told: V’Asu Li Mikdash v’Shachanti B’tocham- “They shall make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them” (Ex.25:8) What follows are all the details and decor of a place where the people were able to approach God. If they build according to plan, then God will reside there. If they behave according to G-d’s Torah then G-d will dwell among them.
 I know what you’re thinking. “Rabbi, isn’t G-d everywhere?” “If so, how can G-d only reside in the Mishkan?” One way to understand the verse is in terms of our needs, the community’s needs. If B’nai Yisroel builds it, he will dwell among them. Certainly G-d resides everywhere. However the verse is incomplete If they build it, yes, G-d will dwell among them. If G-d dwells among them, that is the entire community, then the entire community must have a central gathering place, the Ohel Moed (the tent of the meeting). The difference, of course, is that the Mishkan was built so that G-d could be among the people in the present. The spring training stadiums are frequently sold out because baseball fans yearn for a  place for people to go that reminds them of something simpler and more romantic – their childhoods.

As I have grown older and I watch my children grow, I have started to appreciate that God swells in some fascinating places. God dwells in the imaginations of small children and the wonder with which they see the world. God dwells in the questions that our children ask, or the concern they express when they see suffering or injustice in the world. God dwells with the family that has been struck by the loss of a loved one but has rallied together to offer support and sustenance to each other. No wonder my kids think I am crazy. They want to grow up already, speed up the process. I want to return to the carefree days of my childhood, playing catch with my friends without a care in the world because God dwells in our ability to return to the more innocent and pure days of springtime.

Rav Yitz

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