Page 1 of 1

2.16.2018 Torah Portion

PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 9:29 pm
by RabbiMark
In this week’s parashah, we find the Israelite community, post-revelation at Mt. Sinai, continuing their trek in the wilderness of the desert. G!D and Moses are engaged in a conversation with G!D providing highly detailed instructions about the construction of a temporary, mobile structure – a sanctuary that will serve as the focal point for religious ritual (i.e., sacrifices) and a physical place for G!D’s presence to dwell.

In G!D's instruction to Moses, the Israelites are encouraged to take a terumah (free-will offering) of their own possessions and donate them to support the construction of this mobile sanctuary. The nature of this act of giving, as one of complete choice, is further underlined by G!D’s instruction that the donations should be strictly driven by the “stirring of one’s heart.” That type of giving can be contrasted with a commanded or obligatory act of giving, such as an annual tithe or an offering that’s a consequence of making a mistake.

It was important to G!D that the mobile sanctuary - literally, the location where the Israelite community would have their most intense spiritual/divine encounters - was constructed through an entirely communal effort, one based strictly on individual choice. It speaks to the connection between giving of oneself from the heart and entering into a closer relationship with anyone, much more a cause, power or purpose larger than oneself.

For more than four years, I’ve had the honor of leading our weekly New Resident Orientation group. Upon their arrival at Beit T’Shuvah, new residents attend this group for the first month. The primary focus is to support them during this period of transition - into the house and, more generally, into a life of recovery. One of the reasons I treasure this group is that it means I have a chance to closely interact with EVERY person who enters into the Beit T’Shuvah program.

In the group, one of the key topics introduced is the concept of sanctuary. At Beit T’Shuvah, as many of you know, sanctuary is more than just the physical location where the community comes together to pray, celebrate, learn, mourn, etc. For us, sanctuary is a broad concept that describes a physical, emotional, and spiritual state of being. This is especially relevant to new residents because sanctuary is used to describe the task that they are working to achieve during the early stages of their recovery process. We describe this state of being as one of “…feeling safe and protected. A ‘Sanctuary’ is a sacred space in which people can feel that sense of safety…” On one level, the Beit T’Shuvah program functions as a type of sanctuary for those seeking to escape the exile of addiction. One of the first goals for new residents to achieve is to establish that the Beit T’Shuvah program can be a dependable source safety and sanctity.

However, as we see from the Torah, establishing this sense of safety and sanctity is not just a one-way process. As much as it depends on the Beit T’Shuvah program and staff fostering an environment that allows for this sense to emerge, even more so, it is dependent on each of us, including the new residents themselves, to be willing to freely give of ourselves for this to happen.

Following one of our recent sessions, I was asked by a new resident if I ever get bored, having led the group for such an extended period. It’s a good question. After thinking for a moment, I realized that I’ve always seen too many valuable aspects of this group to be bored by its redundancy. For an hour each week, I have a chance to contribute to maintaining the collective sense of sanctuary at Beit T’Shuvah, as well as to help some new individuals begin to establish or re-establish (we are the House of Return, aren’t we) that vital sense that we can feel safe and sanctified by being part of a holy community. For it is by finding our place - within ourselves and within community - that we build, invite, and discover a place for G!D’s presence to dwell.

Shabbat Shalom,
Chaplain Adam Siegel