Sometimes titles don’t tell you much, but this week when I was at Project Inspire, the title said it like it is.
The amount of people, and their variegated backgrounds was in and of itself inspiring. No one was there for any reason other than to try to learn how to be a source of inspiration to the huge number of unaffiliated Jews you come across just by being alive. The speakers were all wonderful. I shouldn’t say all. I didn’t hear most of them. The program was designed to make it possible to select which class you want to hear, and there were as many as six (!) classes going on simultaneously. I haven’t as yet learned the art of being at more than one place at a time, so I missed quite a few of them. They can be heard on Torah Anytime, so nothing is permanently gone.
The most moving speech of all was given by a man whose wife went on the famous JWRC trip to Israel. (I think that is the initial, but many of you will realize that I am talking about the trips that are organized to give women a sort of renewal of their relationship to Torah, and a reconnection to their roots). She came back with a real love of making challah. As far as he was concerned, this was a great hobby; he had no interest in the religious angle. It took time, and the willingness and patience of several rabbinic mentors, but he came to share the spiritual equivalent of adrenal rush that learning Torah gave him. Another speaker was able to succinctly tell parents that approval (which is necessary, but by definition related to what is done) isn’t the same thing as acceptance (which is even more necessary, because it has to do with being, not just with doing. By definition acceptance means that your child feels emotionally safe in your home). These two insights are just the tip of the iceberg. Just listening to the man who is the CEO of Aish, and watching a movie about its founder was another part of the experience, as was seeing some of the authentic Torah greats of our times relating to the need to reach out to ordinary people.
You may be wondering why I am telling you all this, after all it will be another year before there will be another Project Inspire weekend, and a lot of water will flow under the bridge until then. The reason is that we have just read Parshat is Trumah.
The word Trumah literally means “uplifting” even though its colloquial meaning is donation. Hashem told the Jews in the desert to “Take trumah for Me”. Notice it says that we should “take”, not “give”. How is donating material things taking? It feels more like giving. The most honest answer is the best way to take, is to give.
When you look at where your life has led you, and you look for the golden moments, you will often find that the moments when you gave of yourself in a way that had genuine meaning were right up there, far more than the moments when you received anything that a human can give.
The Torah tells you what the result of this kind of “taking is”. Hashem says, “Make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in your midst”. If you give of yourself, then Hashem’s presence becomes part of your life.
The people in Project Inspire were takers just as much as they were givers. They were in the midst of the endless process called, “becoming”, and what made it even better was that the audience was just as much involved in this p process.
When I came home, I began to look for givers who are takers. In Neve it’s so easy to find them! Rabbi LIff (who heads mechina for those of you who live in a cave) gives constantly. Just yesterday, he mentioned that one of the teachers took notice of one of the student’s rather unusual last name. “This is the name of one of the most famous rabbis of his time. Are you a descendent?” the teacher asked. As things turned out, she is, and the moment of sensitivity to having deep roots wasn’t lost on her. When Rabbi Liff told me about this, he was literally beaming. He was so glad that the girl, who was only in Neve a short time, had an experience that touched her. The moment belonged to him almost as much as it belonged to her.
My Bnos Avigail girls made a musical Melave Malka, with original songs and dances as well as script that was both meaningful and funny (which doesn’t always happen as you know too well). I missed it because I was in the States. When the madrichot told me about it, they were there- enjoying “their” dances, songs and skits.
This Parshah and the coming ones are there to tell you how to do it. How to concretely and honestly become the kind of person who takes/gives and has Hashem dwell inside your heart. You will learn about what the Torah tells you your mind can be by learning and giving/taking by telling you all about the Ark of the Covenant. You will learn about your heart and soul by studying the menorah, about your body and your endless appetite for everything the world offers by studying the sacred table.
All the best!
And make it yours