The day before I got married I was sitting in shul, the shul outside of Chicago that my in-laws belong to, and I was sitting with some friends and family going about my normal Shabbat business: a mixture of davening and schmoozing. Since we had celebrated our Auf Ruf a couple of weeks earlier, this was supposed to be a low key Shabbat for me. There was a Bar or Bat Mitzvah that day and I was looking forward to just being a regular Jew in the pew. However, that all took a strange turn when the rabbi got up to speak towards the end of services. He announced that Laura and I were getting married the next day, and that we would be moving to Boston the following week. And then he found me in the crowd, locked eyes with me and said sternly, “just so you know, we all know how to get to Boston!”
In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Terumah, God instructs us to “make Me a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them/וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם.” (Ex. 25:8). A Midrash on this verse teaches (Ex. Rabbah 33:1) that when God made the deal with us to sell us Torah, the deal did not just include the item, but the seller as well. This is like a King who has a daughter and she gets married to a prince from a different region. The King does not want to be completely separated from his daughter, so he tells his new son-in-law, “every place you go, you have to have a room for me so that I can live (adur/אדור) with you.” And this is just what God said to Israel, “I gave you Torah, but I cannot part from it, so, everyplace you go, make me a house so I can dwell (adur/אדור) in it, as it says “make Me a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them/וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם.” Our Sages of blessed memory/Hazal/חז”ל explain what may seem obvious. When we leave home, the Divine rests in our mini sanctuaries, in our synagogues (BT Megillah 29a).
The Rabbis have taught us, one who enters into [the month of] Adar/אדר increases in joy (BT Ta’anit 29a). We just celebrated Rosh Hodesh Adar earlier this week. Why are we supposed to be happy? The Chernobyler Rebbe explains that it is hidden in the name of the month. He says it is hinted that in this month (Adar/אדר) the Aleph dwells (aleph dar/א’ דר). Aleph stands for Alufo Shel Olam (Champion of the World=God, not the Pats!). And this month reminds us that God comes down to live with us in our world.
There is a lot to learn from entering this new month and reading this week’s Parsha. At the very least I learned that we need to keep our second bedroom open--Mom and Dad, you are always welcome! And, as we continue to work on ourselves as individuals and as a community, let us remember what we are building. We are building a space suitable for God. Wherever we go, wherever history takes us, we must continue to build spaces that are inviting so that God can come down and spend time with us.That is what brings us joy in this upcoming month of celebration and silliness.
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.