Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Parashat Teruma. Shechina-Shechuna-Mishkan

When parents reach Parashat Teruma they take a deep breath. After looking at the pictures in the "Mishkan Book" many parents are at a loss as to what to discuss with their children around the Shabbat table.

Some years ago, searching for inspiration I opened this children's Torah book by Joel Grishaver, a California based Torah educator, and really one of the most creative family educators in the Jewish world. He is not Orthodox but his education seeks to teach Torah and truth. (see This is from a book called "A Child's Garden of Torah"

Grishaver writes here:

"Most people writing a children's Bible would skip the Tabernacle. We couldn't for two reasons: (1) Kids think that the Tabernacle is neat. (2) The idea that we can build places where God is our neighbour is too important to skip..."

What I love about the text here is the chiddush that I had never though of until I saw this page. The connection between the word Shechina, and the Hebrew שכן as in neighbours and שכונה meaning neighbourhood.

The word schechina is always translated as "God's Presence" giving one the imagination of a dense white cloud or the like ... something with real space, gravitas and "presence."

But when the Torah says ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם God is saying quite simply that He wishes to dwell amongst us. And this is incredible. When we think of a new neighbour moving in next door, God is moving in next door! The childlike simple language brought home the idea that God wants to be our neighbour! He is moving into the neighbourhood! and that is huge! Why? Because no earthquakes are happening. God is simply establishing a residence in teh centre of teh Camp of Israel.

Of course this is a great privilege but also an enormous responsibility for everyone living in the shechuna. But, once again, I had never quite appreciated that God's Shekhina is not a "thing." It is essentially God's closeness ... his residence in and around us. And this very simple text brought it home in a very deep way.

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