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Shabbat Tidbit

 

Torah Tidbit by Rabbi Prosnit – Terumah: “If your heart is moved” – Ways to support those struggling through the winter storms in Texas

February 19, 2021

A long time member of our Temple community reached out to me, Rabbi Appell, and the Tikkun Olam Committee to see what we, as a community, could do to support those in need in Texas as they face a fierce winter storm, frigid temperatures, and lack of electricity, heat and water. Like so many of you, this congregant’s heart was moved by the stories and the images we have seen this past week and wants to help. 

In the opening verses of Terumah, our Torah portion this Shabbat, God says to Moses to instruct the Israelites: Asu li mikdash, v’shachanti b’tocham – Make me a sanctuary that I might dwell among the people (Ex 25:8). The text tells us that those whose hearts are moved (nediv libo), were to bring gifts to build the sanctuary. It is interesting to note that not everyone had to bring a gift to build the structure where God would dwell, but instead, only those Israelites whose hearts were moved.

A few chapters later, we find out whose hearts were moved, when Moses shares that the Israelites freely brought so many gifts to create the Tabernacle that Moses actually had to ask them to stop bringing things. “There was sufficient material to complete all the work, and more than enough.” (Ex 36:7) So many of the Israelites felt compelled to help build the sanctuary that there was a surplus of gifts. Through this, rabbinic commentators teach that God does not actually dwell in the place but instead God dwells in the efforts of the people. When people come together, when they give of their hearts, and when they create something of beauty, God dwells among us.

I reached out to friends Rabbi Kelly Levy of and Hannah Rubin-Shlanksy of Temple Emanu-El of Dallas to see what we could do as a Temple Emanu-El community to support their congregations in Austin and Dallas as well as their surrounding communities. Here are some suggested ways we can help: Rabbi Kelly Levy and shared with a listing of organizations across Texas working on the ground helping the most vulnerable. Another colleague at Temple Emanu-El of Dallas shared these suggestions:

  • Contribute to organizations across Texas working on the ground to help the most vulnerable, more information available at this link
  • Send diapers (size 4-6) and blankets to Literary Achieves; more information here
  • Contribute to Temple Emanu-El of Dallas’ disaster relief fund here; we as a synagogue have contributed too.

If your heart is moved, we encourage you to share your gifts to support those in need. Through our actions and through our gifts, we know that God will dwell among us. We pray for a speedy recovery for all those affected in Texas.

Rabbi Prosnit

“Keep Far From Deceit” Rabbi Ethan Prosnit A Shabbat Tidbit from this week’s Torah Portion – Mishpatim

Recently at bedtime, I asked Caleb if he had brushed his teeth. He said “yes” but when I went to check his toothbrush, it was dry. In response, I told him that it is important to tell the truth and that in the Torah it says “do not lie.” But to be honest, when I said this to him, I was lying as well. Nowhere in the Torah does it say “do not lie.” In last week’s Torah portion, when Moses received the Ten Commandments, we may think that it says those words because it says do not murder and do not steal but in reality it says “you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  
 
This Shabbat we read from Mishpatim, we learn of other social rules, moral imperatives, and civil and criminal laws that the Israelites must follow. One of these rules stands out when thinking about lying, when we read that one should “keep far from deceit” (Exodus 23:7). This wording is unlike any other instruction in the Torah. Usually we have things that one can or cannot do, but here we learn to stay far away from deceit. 
 
Within the context of Mishpatim, “keep far from deceit,” teaches that a Judge must strive to cling to the truth in the assessment of the case. However, the Rabbis teach that this commandment is not restricted to the Jewish courts, rather it applies to many aspects of our everyday life. Rabbi Menachem a 14th Century rabbi in his Torah Commentary, T’zedah LaDerech, “The Provisions of the Way,” teaches that the Torah uses these words because there is no more common and frequent transgression than speaking falsely. It was because of mankind’s tendency to distort the truth that the angels opposed mankind’s very existence. 
 
The lesson we can take away is that we must not only tell the truth but we must also distance ourselves from events or interactions that may make us feel that we need to lie. Given this juncture in our nation’s history, this feels all the more pressing. We must hold ourselves, our children, our community, and our nations’ leaders accountable to make sure the truth is spoken and heard.
 
-Rabbi Ethan Prosnit