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39http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2011/03/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---03_04_2011
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 03_04_2011
03/03/2011 05:16 PM Posted by:

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
March 4, 2011

 

We have arrived at the final chapter of the book of Exodus. It’s called Pekudei and it includes final preparations for building the Tabernacle, the mobile sanctuary. The work that it required came from countless able hands and numerous resources. Recall that God singled out Bezalel and Oholiab as general contractor and master craftsman. In addition, all who were inspired to participate came forward to contribute to its construction. In the end, so much had been brought that Moses told the people to stop bringing goods and supplies. Never again in history has the Jewish community been so flush with goods and supplies.

                The sacred task is worth noting, today. Thankfully, we are not a nomadic people anymore. Although the Jewish people have been settled for long periods in other eras, it’s difficult to compare the relative Golden Age of Judaism in America to any other time. We are wise enough not to take it for granted, but the relative ease with which our families have integrated into American life since they arrived speaks volumes of their trek and our subsequent expectations of stability.

                Look around the Jewish community, today. Our families who settled here demonstrated their expectation for longevity when they built synagogues, a JCC, a Jewish home for the aged, and other institutions of Jewish life. Yes, a cemetery came first (Beth Israel’s West Dallas Street cemetery was founded in 1844). But, the cemetery didn’t necessarily reflect longevity; it was a necessity even if the community had to move on. Obviously, it didn’t move on and in 1854, Beth Israel was organized. The contributions to build Beth Israel, Texas’ oldest synagogue, and other Jewish institutions came speedily. The value of these Jewish institutions is seen in the ways they have met and continue to meet our families’ needs. What would we do without our synagogues, our JCC and Seven Acres? There are no places like them for us and our families.

                Over time, Torah doesn’t record the efforts made to maintain the Tabernacle. It didn’t report that it was polished or repaired. No mention is made of a part failure. Nevertheless, the community was organized to protect the Tabernacle and to preserve its sacred place. Just like Moses, Aaron, Bezalel and Oholiab, we had Houston Jewish leaders, benefactors, and contractors. They welcomed everybody’s participation, though I doubt that they had more than they needed. From this we can learn much. We do have reports of efforts to maintain our Houston Jewish institutions. Recorded in the “Centenary” of Beth Israel, minutes of long ago document the constant attention paid to the mending of the fence around the cemetery on West Dallas. Some things never change. We’re still mending and repairing. As in the past, there is the oral record that paints a marvelous picture of Jewish building projects, and there is the written record that documents every generation’s role in preserving and perpetuating Jewish life.

                As the book of Exodus is closed and the book of Leviticus is opened, let’s not fall between the cracks and forget the sacred duty that has come down to us. “Hazak, hazak, v’nithazek,” be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen each other. These are the words we say as we go from one book to the next; it’s a reminder that between the pages is our duty to pick up where others leave off.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

 

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