February 2021 – Parshat Terumah

This week was another tough week for many Melbournians as we once again faced a snap lockdown and stage 4 restrictions. While 2020 showed us our resilience as community, many of us had a difficult week with children home, cancelled parties and events, the closure of small businesses and obviously the renewed uneasy feelings that lockdowns bring. I urge anyone who is feeling anxious or in need to reach out to me or the COVID-19 Helpline run by Jewish Care.

Although the past week felt a little bleak, it also marked the onset of the Jewish month of Adar, the most joyous month in the Jewish calendar. The famous expression that describes the month of Adar says: “when Adar begins, we increase our joy,” so I encourage all of you to try to look at some of the positive and joyous things that have happened to you in the last week so we can fulfil the requirement to increase our joy.

For me personally, the highlight of last week was celebrating, right before lockdown, the baby naming of Ellie Kate Ivany, the daughter of Jay and SJ. The Ivany family has had a long-time involvement in ARK Centre with many wonderful occasions for celebration, so I was ecstatic to be able to continue to mark lifecycle events with them. Our Synagogue was full, with friends and family present for a socially distanced Shachrit morning service, and it was so wonderful to be able to celebrate such a joyful occasion.

This week’s Parsha, Terumah discusses how the people of Israel in the desert are offered the opportunity to contribute to the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. The response to this offer is overwhelming, with the organisers being inundated by the generosity of the Jewish people who donated expensive items such as gold, silver, animal skins, dyed wools, and precious stones. So generous are the donors, that the organizers must implore Moshe to ask the people of Israel to stop the donations as they are overwhelmed and inundated!

I think that there are very few institutions today that receive so many donations that they are forced to retract their offer to accept any further pledges! What a wonderful position to be in, but also indicative of the generous spirit that is truly alive and well in our community. The Jewish people are known to band together, through thick and thin, to look after the less privileged in society, but also gather and provide the goods when “the going gets tough.”

There was no requirement for the people of Israel to contribute to the Mishkan, yet each did so out of the generosity of their heart with a desire to contribute to G-d’s resting place in the desert. Each person who contributed recognised that having a beautiful sanctuary in the desert would provide the people with a sense of connection, a central gathering place, and an opportunity to share experiences.

I know that this week was a difficult one, but I also know that in the same spirit of generosity exhibited in the Torah portion this week, we will be able to get through this period. The most important thing is to check in on others, pay-it-forward if you are able to do so and also increase our joy for Adar and the upcoming festival of Purim.

We are resilient, we have been through this before and as weary as one can feel about the predicament, we also know that together we can get through the toughest of circumstances.

May this Shabbat prove to be restful and reflective for all of you.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Gabi