26/27 Mar: Tzav+Shabbat Hagadol + Erev Pesach : Shabbat comes in 6:09 pm, ends 7:13 pm
Parashat Tzav – Building Holy Spaces
Parashat Tzav of 5779 (2019) was the Torah portion of my interview weekend, when I was interviewing for the role of Rabbi at Mosaic Masorti and New London Synagogue. By the time Parashat Tzav rolled around again in 2020, we had recently entered into the first lockdown of the Covid pandemic.
During my interview weekend, I taught about holy spaces. Parashat Tzav is, after all, a parashah about a holy space: the mishkan (tabernacle, which was later replaced with the Temple). I suggested that Parashat Tzav and the surrounding Torah portions are about the keva (fixedness, structure) of holy space, which exists in order to hold the kavanah (spiritual intention) of holiness. I compared this to the primary holy ‘space’ of Jewish life in a post-Temple world: prayer. The words on the pages are akin to the beams and posts of the Temple. They are the structures that hold something for us, something that is non-quantifiable, that cannot be pointed to. The keva is there to give us a space in which to work on that non-quantifiable sense of spiritual connection and intention.
One year later, I learned entirely new lessons about holy space, as our concepts of holy space shifted. I was reminded that there is a keva (structure) in the building of the synagogue, too: the beams, the bimah, even the bodies of other people occupying the same room. That rug was pulled out from under us in a way that I could not have imagined just a year beforehand. We now know what it is like to be unable to congregate in the holy spaces of our synagogue buildings. We have been challenged to learn what it means to build the keva of holy spaces without the material that we are used to having at our disposal.
The good news is that the 21st Century has given us new materials for building holy spaces through technological developments. They are not the same. It’s okay to miss our buildings and miss being together. But looking back at that lockdown, I am filled with gratitude for the tools of technology, which allowed us to build new spaces to fill with intention, consciousness, and holiness.