This weekend, Marcus and I are at a Shabbat retreat run through our synagogue, Beth El. We are off the grid, technology-wise
I was asked to give a D’var Torah during the course of the weekend. It’s essentially a homily/message, for those members of the group who are unfamiliar with the term.
This week’s Parsha (Torah Reading) is Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10). It is here that we talk about the altar of sacrifice. The Tabernacle court. The Menorah. The Priestly Garments. The Ordination Ritual. The Incense.
Shabbat was created for rest. And yet, I am not a Person Who Rests. Just on Thursday, I was telling someone about how if I do not force myself into Rest, it simply does not happen. For context: I am at my most calm when I am running. Which is to say that I find rest in heavy cardiovascular activity.
As I was reading the Parsha, I kept on trying to focus on contemplative nature of worship. How These Vestments and These Sacrifices and This Tabernacle may have brought us closer to a holy, sacred, calm place infused with God’s presence.
Really what I found as I reviewed all of these things is how truly hard the Israelites had to try in order to worship. The amount of effort they had to put into creating vestments with the weaving of fabric and the carving of stones was anything but contemplative. Herding and transporting sacrificial animals was surely not a slow-moving or low-energy activity. Which is to say nothing of the amount of effort involved in ritually slaughtering the animal, collecting its blood and then sprinkling the blood all about.
Worship, it appears, was a mess. It was hard, filthy, focused, dedicated work. It was noisy. It was unpredictable. It was anything but an opportunity for quiet or contemplation.
And that is maybe the way we should come to our worship as well. Not looking for “zen” or “inner peace” but rather, continuing to endeavor in the hard work of building a relationship with God, and of being honest with ourselves. Working towards understanding and acceptance rather than quiet. Looking forward to a day of work that is not Rest, but work that is sanctified.
Shabbat Shalom, kittens.