Yom Shishi, 19 Iyyar 5779
Friday, 24 May 2019
Parashat Vayaekhel 2014

Parashat Vayaekhel
Rabbi Charley Baginsky
21st February 2014

The portion of Vayaekhel sees the community of Israel leaving Moses to find gifts for the Eternal. The congregation brings forward their gifts of gold and wools, silver, copper and acacia wood. But they bring their skills and together they construct the sanctuary for God. Bezalel, the master builder builds an Ark of acacia wood to specific instructions given to Moses by God. He makes a cover of pure gold and two cherubim with gold wings spread out above the ark, shielding the cover with their wings. However, the faces of the cherubim face each other.
"The cherubim had their wings spread out above, shielding the cover with their wings. They faced each other, the faces of the cherubim were turned toward the cover"·(Exodus 37:9)

Commentary tells us that God did not dwell within the Holy of Holies, the ark but rather between these two cherubim.
As I caught the train today I saw two people catch each other’s eye on the platform, clearly friends who had not seen each other for a long time. In the moment of recognition a large smile spread across each of their eyes onto their faces as they moved towards each other to reconnect. Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher best known for his philosophy of dialogue, suggests that if we are to meet God anywhere it is at the point when two people meet face to face. For Buber true I-Thou relationships were those when individuals encounter the other not as an object but as a subject, as he wrote: “Each Thou is a glimpse through to the Eternal Thou."
It is a struggle sometimes in the midst of these excruciating details about the tabernacle, the priestly vestments and the materials used to make them to find anything that seems relevant to us. Those of us lucky enough to have permanent buildings to house our communities often look at walls that were old schools or meeting houses and find them uninspiring at best. Many congregations meet in people’s houses or buildings that during the week serve a very different purpose and have to make the space their own each time they pray. It is a rare synagogue indeed that is inlaid with gold and copper let alone dolphin skins! But here between the wings of the cherubim we find a reminder that God dwells in the relationships we create within our communities not within the walls we build around us.
If you speak to new members of communities about what caused them to join a congregation it is not the decorative entrance hall or the brand new kitchen, but the face to face conversations they had with people. Too often we rush from place to place and appointment to appointment and forget to actually look at the people around us. It is not until someone takes the time to really see us, to mean the words ‘how are you?’ that we actually remember how much we need these moments of real human contact.·It is in receiving and passing on these encounters of human interaction that we begin to build a space that allows God to dwell in our midst.