Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:
The story: This week’s parsha (Torah portion), Terumah, opens with the Israelites building the Mishkan – a portable sanctuary for God. Despite being a temporary/portable structure, it’s a remarkably elaborate piece of construction: “Speak to the children of Israel,” God commands Moses, “and have them take for me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take my offering… you shall take from them: gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple, and crimson wool; linen and goat hair.” (Exodus 25:2-4)
The takeaway: This week’s dvar tzedek commentator, Leil Leibovitz writes that there are some startling comparisons between the parsha’s story and today’s modern day economic woes. “[Today’s economic catastrophe] was brought about largely due to unhealthy mortgage practices that allowed individuals without much capital to buy houses well beyond their means. And here, as the story begins, are the Israelites acting like the most irresponsible of homeowners. Despite being a nomadic desert tribe, they squander their fortunes on erecting [the Mishkan.]
But, Leibovitz writes, God’s request for a lavish dwelling place acutally helps teach the Israelite’s some important lessons – namely, the importance of sacrifice and of respecting home. He writes, “for a collection of ancient tribespeople becoming progressively accustomed to life on the move, insisting on one particular, fixed structure as holy sends a powerful message: housing—whether Divine or human—should never be taken lightly. Home is imbued with holiness. A home is a basic human right.” It’s a message we would do well to remember today.
The “to-do”: Work to realize God’s lesson in parsha Terumah that “home is a basic human right.” Learn more about the Fair Housing Act, and get involved with organizations like Housing Rights Inc, and Fair Housing Justice Center which fight for equal access to housing for everyone.
Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website.