Terumah BAC Feb. 17, 2024

A Rabbi who tried to persuade a gentleman to join his congregation was

told by the man, “I appreciate the importance of religion, but I don’t

believe in organized religion”.

To which the Rabbi replied, “You’ll love our synagogue. It’s completely


I don’t know whether the solicited gentleman joined the “disorganized”

synagogue but he expressed a frequently heard opinion.

We have all heard people label; “religion” good and “organized religion”

either bad or quite expendable.

These same people would not say, “I believe in medicine but I do not

believe in medical schools, hospitals and clinics”.

Nor would they say, “I believe in law and justice but I do not believe in

law schools, courts, and police”.

Nor, “I love art and beauty but I do not believe in art schools and


If medicine, justice, and art are worth fostering, there must be

institutions devoted to those purposes. And so it is with religion.

This realization came to us early in Jewish history.

In Today’s Torah portion, Terumah, we reed (read) that shortly after our

ancestors left Egypt, they were commanded: “V’asu Li Mikdash

v’Shachanti b’sochem” – Let them build Me a Sanctuary so that I may

dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8).

This statement was the first effort to “organize” religion, and for more

than 3,000 years, in good times and bad, in lands of freedom and

oppression, our people were builders of sanctuaries.


If G-d is the creator of everything, omniscient and omnipotent, why

would he want to confine himself to such a small space like a Sanctuary?

Our sages wisely teach us that the Sanctuary was for US, not for G-d.

The next logical question then is why did G-d think that we needed a

sanctuary or a specific place in which to worship Him?

Can’t we talk to G-d anyplace? Anytime?

I think that’s a great question.

Why do we need a Shul?

Having devoted the last 35 years of my life to the institution of the

synagogue, I’ve got a couple of thoughts on the matter as I’m sure you

must, as well.

In a noisy world, it enables us to pause periodically to listen to the still

small voice of the spirit.

Let’s take a few moments of silence…just for ourselves.

I like to feel that G-d is here with me…right now.

I’m sharing my G-d with all of you…right now.

Is he not everywhere else too? Sure.

I don’t care. I’m comforted that I’m in his presence…standing in a

Shul…in front of the Torahs that he wanted us to try to understand and

apply to our lives today. To an atheist, I must seem laughable.

I feel that G-d is with me in this building.

Because of that feeling, I always dress as neatly as I can.

I always wear my yarmulka.

I try to always talk with members and visitors respectfully.

I try to make people feel happy that they invested their time to come to

Shul, especially when there are so many other enticing activities that

people can choose from for a Saturday morning.

G-d is here. That’s how we should act in his house.

A second reason that I think synagogues are still here some 3,000 years

after the Exodus is that synagogues provide a place of Assembly for the

Jewish community and for many organizations of Jewish youth and

adults. It is the recognized address of the Jewish community for Jew

and non-Jew alike.

When I lived in Hollywood, Florida, I used to play man’s basketball at

the David Posnack JCC, located in Davie. I never took a census, but I

can tell you that the percentage of Jewish people I saw there was less

than 30%. JCCs have become like YMCAs. JCCs can not replace

synagogues as meeting places for Jews.

A third reason to be part of a synagogue community is that it best

preserves the Jewish heritage and most effectively transmits the wisdom

of our sages and teachers.

Most synagogues have a Jewish library as we do.

Like other synagogues, Beth Ami offers classes of all types all year long.

We’ve offered opportunities, just this past year, to learn about Jewish

history, to get more comfortable with the prayerbook, to learn about

other great Jewish texts and we’ve had speakers illuminating us on the

current mood in the State of Israel.

Just this past week, we had a wonderful learning session about the goals

and aims of Islam which threaten us as Jews, and all of these

opportunities were from very knowledgeable teachers.

Every Shabbat, people can connect with Torah learning either during

Services or in interactive sessions before Shabbat Services begin.

A Jew is a constant learner. Learning is always a major part of a Shul.

The synagogue raises to loftiest significance the great milestones from

birth to death.

We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries here every week.

We actually had a Bris here just yesterday, and, sadly, we held hands

with the family of a long-time member who passed away just last


The synagogue provides a community with which to share all

of these occasions.

In the synagogue, every human being is treated with the highest dignity.

Finally, I will say that the synagogue has been the most potent force for

Jewish continuity through all the ups and downs of our history. It

continues to nourish the Jewish will to survive and to provide JOY in

living as a Jew.

On this Shabbat of Terumah, the Shabbat in which we learn about the

need to build a synagogue, let me suggest a few questions that we might

ask ourselves in defining the relevance of a synagogue to us and our


Why do I come to the synagogue?

What need impels me to come here, week after week, on Sabbath,

Festivals, and holy days?

What do I seek?

What do I find, and on occasion, FAIL to find?

Why do I feel a strange restlessness as if something were missing, when

I do NOT attend?

The Shul, my friends, is our spiritual oasis.

When our souls are parched and dry,

when the perks of the assimilated life we can all choose to live don’t

seem to fulfill us,

when our children sometimes disappoint us, or,

when we want to share their successes and Simchas with our

congregational family,

when illness and death invade our lives,

when loneliness casts its dark shadow upon us,

when intellectual challenges are lacking for some of us,

and when we just need to feel connected to our heritage, to be in the

company of a “lansman”,

we come to Beth Ami, the “house of our people”.

It is our sacred challenge to make of Beth Ami a Beit El…a

sanctuary…in which G-d dwells.

May G-d bless all who step forward in the true spirit of Terumah,

offering their resources, their time, and their passion to securing the

existence of this…our Jewish home.

And to that…let us all say Amen.

Shabbat Shalom