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Thoughts on Parshat Tetzaveh

After the Exodus from Egypt and the revelation at Mount Sinai come five torah portions that describe the details of the building of the Mishkan, the tabernacle in the desert.

From last week’s Torah portion, Terumah, we learn about the importance of giving. The name of the portion literally means, “a contribution”. God said to Moses: “Tell the Israelites to take for me a contribution. You are to receive the contribution for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.”(Ex. 25:2) Rabbi Jonathan Saks comments that the he best way of encountering God is to give. He says, “Where people give voluntarily to one another and to holy causes, that is where the divine presence rests.”

In this week’s portion, Tetzaveh, we learn that to give once is not satisfactory.

In both Terumah and Tetzaveh, the word tamid is repeated over and over again. Rabbi Joel Levy, the head of the Conservative Yeshiva notes that this word is usually translated as always, but might better be translated as “continually”, “regularly”, “constantly” or “perpetually”. He goes on to say, “In these parshiot the Torah bridges the gap between the one-off event of the Revelation at Sinai and the human need for rites and practices that preserve such a unique moment through constancy and repetition. Our individual and communal lives contain peak moments, one-off events, but for those events to be nourishing over time they need to be preserved, normalized and regularized.”

Sukkot in Spring welcomes many volunteer groups to repair homes over the course of a day or two. For many people, our work is characterized by these one day builds and the good feelings of volunteering to make a meaningful change; however, our work might be better seen from the lens of the past two decades of work to make DC a place where people can afford to stay in their homes, families can grow, and neighborhoods can continue to thrive. Through our work, we are hoping to make housing a stable and constant for more families. We hope that soon this will be the norm for all families in DC.

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