Teruma, Exodus 25:1-27:19
What benefit does a person obtain from attending services in his or her synagogue? After all, can’t a person pray anywhere and anytime?
This week’s Torah portion, Teruma, reminds me of a story. A man told his rabbi that he did not make it to synagogue much anymore since he moved into a new neighborhood. He said he believed he didn’t need it as much.
Replied the rabbi: “You’re only thinking of yourself. Perhaps there may be someone else there who needs the strength that you can give.”
When we are in synagogue, we are connected — to G-d above and to each other. It is this sense of connectedness that many people describe as spirituality. They feel a sense of higher purpose, and of being part of something larger than oneself.
Yes, we could say the same prayers in the convenience of our own living rooms. After all, G-d is everywhere. But we would miss the inspiring and symbolic architecture of the synagogue, the voices of others singing and praying with us, and the social interactions that are so important.
The Torah portion of Teruma describes in detail the construction of the Mishkan, the portable temple that the Jewish people used in the desert. It describes the Holy Ark, the table with the showbread and the altar. All of the individual furnishings were important, but the most important was the overall impact on those who went to worship in that place.
It was a place that carried the holy name of G-d. It was a house of G-d. Not a house for G-d to dwell in. He needs no such structure. But it was a house in which we could tangibly feel the presence of G-d and a place to connect to His people.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)