Be present, be kind!
This week’s Torah portion instructs the Israelites in the building of the mishkan, or the Tabernacle. There are lists of details on how the tabernacle should be built such as, “You shall make bars of acacia wood: five bars for the planks of the other side wall of the Tabernacle, and five bars for the planks of the wall…” (Exodus 26:18). Many people find this parasha to be boring because of its ongoing list of details. Abravanel, a 15th century commentator, explains that each detail teaches an ethical lesson meant to guide people in their relationships with another and God.
One of the details that people always question is the concept of the cherubim. Verse 31 of Chapter 26 says: “It (the tabernacle) shall have a design of cherubim worked into it.” First of all, we might question, what are these cherubim? According to our tradition cherubim are winged creatures . . . maybe birds or humans or angels . . . that face each other on the top of the ark.
But the deeper question is, what ethical lesson are the cherubim meant to teach us? According to the great rabbinic commentators, they are supposed to teach us the following:
God wants human beings to care about one another.
Human beings are to make an effort to see one another.
We are to try to really understand what brings pain or joy into one another’s lives.
It is forbidden to turn away from one another.
Like cherubim, we are to serve God by keeping our eyes upon others, by paying attention to their needs, by looking at them face to face.
In short the Cherubim are to teach us to be present to one another. They are to teach us to be kind.
In this coming week, as we prepare for the one year anniversary of MSD, or perhaps another yahrzeit in your family, or another challenge in life, I ask us all to please learn from the ethical lesson of the cherubim –be present to one another, do not turn away, and be kind. Below please find several opportunities to extend your kindness to others over the next week.
Rabbi Marci R. Bloch