This shabbat we read Parshat Pekudei, and the Haftarah is from the Book of Kings. The connection between the Torah and Haftarah portion is the building of the tabernacle and the first temple. The tabernacle was built in the desert by Bezalel, and the first Temple was built in Jerusalem by King Solomon. We may ask, “Why do we need a special place to pray to God? Why do people believe that God’s presence can be contained in a physical structure? Is the worship center a place for us or for God?”
I think the answer is that we needed a place to pray, and God wanted a place for us to come together and develop a community. From its earliest time, the synagogue has been a center of Jewish life. For over 2,000 years, the synagogue has served as a place of study for young and old, as a yeshiva, as a place to house the poor, needy and homeless. Perhaps the most important aspects of “synagogue” are the sense of community that exists when we come together as a people for prayer, bar/bat mitzvah celebrations, weddings and mourning and to celebrate a birth. We understand that the synagogue is part of celebrating our life-cycle events. Synagogue has also taken on additional purposes, where members have helped to create projects for our people and for others in our community.
A community lives by certain ideas and values. Communities help and protect each other. For example, for my bat mitzvah project, I have chosen to collect clothing, toiletries and letters to send to the IDF soldiers in Israel. I am doing this through an organization called A Package from Home. This organization will pick up the packages in Israel and deliver them to the soldiers. They also use donations to buy other necessities for the soldiers. They buy the goods in Israel to support the Israeli economy. We support the IDF, and the IDF protects the Jewish communities in Israel and at large.
Today, the synagogue serves as a center of community, where we come together for three things: al shlosha devarim haolam omed, al HaTorah, al Haavoda, v’al gemilut hasadim, as it says in Pirkei Avot In this case, our Baltimore community is working together to help a other community in our homeland, in Israel. Together, we have continued to build sanctuary and community as discussed in this week’s Torah and Haftarah portions.