How Do You Remember?
Just a few short weeks ago our Torah portions were the exciting narratives of our religious identity – the show-down between God, represented by Moses, and Pharaoh; our timely and miraculous escape across the ‘Sea of Reeds,’ as God parted the waters for us before bringing them back to drown our Egyptian pursuers; and our covenant with God at Mount Sinai.
And now we’re reading details for building the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the priestly garments and rituals. Easy to get turned off and ignore the ideas that the Torah is teaching now!
But think about it: we have just had incredible, mind-blowing experiences, truly ‘peak experiences’! And we want to remember them always, to give them form and substance. How do we do that?
How do we do that? Look around your home: what are the things that mean the most to you? Perhaps pictures, or souvenirs from travel; perhaps gifts from loved ones or family heirlooms. Each one has a story to tell; each is important because of what we recall when we see it.
The Tabernacle, with all its details and pageantry, was our ancestors’ effort to remind those who had just escaped from slavery of their experiences, to remember the sense of those peak moments so they would never forget those feelingsand what those events meant.
Perhaps we would have chosen a different way to remember. But our ancestors built a place that would remind them of their journey from slavery to freedom, from Pharaoh’s oppression to God’s covenant. If and when you get bogged down in the details of the Tabernacle over the next number of weeks, put it in perspective: this is our effort at communal memory. This is our attempt to hold onto a feeling, a sense, a sound, a voice – our experiences of becoming the Jewish people.