D’var Torah – Written by Rabbi Matt Futterman

Our sages say, “Mishenichnas Adar, Marbim B’Simcha – “When Adar begins (and we celebrated Rosh Hodesh Adar yesterday and the day bfore) , we increase joy.”

We are required to serve God “with happiness” [ivdu et Hashem b’simha]throughout the year, yet there is special emphasis on happiness during Adar, when the miracle of Purim took place. And I have been looking for a connection between the joy of Adar and the central theme of today’s parasha, Terumah, in which the Torah commands us to build a sanctuary for God, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).

Our ancestors understood that they had to build the Mishkan (tabernacle) in the wilderness – a portable sanctuary.

Eventually King Solomon built the Beth Hamikdash (Holy Temple) in Jerusalem which stood for 410 years until it was destroyed by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnetzar. When the Jews returned to Israel after 70 years in Exile, they rebuilt the Holy Temple. And the second Temple stood for 420 years till it was destroyed by the Romans.

And I think I found a connection between the joy of Adar and the building of a place in which God would make God’s presence in a little known story of the copper gates which adorned the Temple known as the Gates of Nikanor.

So called because a man by the name of Nikanor wanted to make a special contribution to the Holy Temple. We are charged in today’s parasha to give as much as our hearts desire – asher yidvenu libo – and Nikanor must have had a very big heart, for he traveled to Alexandria in Egypt and commissioned skilled experts to make a set of elaborately designed copper doors for the Holy Temple.

When the doors were finished, he took them on a ship to go back to Israel. Half way to his destination, a severe storm broke out. The ship tilted and was in danger of sinking. The sailors decided that the doors were too heavy and had to be thrown overboard. Nikanor begged them to spare one door and they agreed.

When throwing one door overboard didn’t help, they wanted to throw the other door overboard, too. Niknor said that if they threw it into the sea, they would have to throw him in with it. And as he said this, the sea became calm.

When the ship reached the port of Acco, Nikanor descended from the ship with the remaining door. He looked out to sea, grieving for his lost door.

Suddenly, he noticed a strange object coming closer to shore. It was the other door floating toward land! Nikanor brought the doors to the Beth Hamikdash, where they were installed in a prominent place. Their location became known as “Shaar Nikanor” – “The gate of Nikanor”.

Many years later, all the doors in the Temple were replaced by golden ones. However, the copper gates of Nikanor were left as a tribute to the miracle that occurred with them and the dedication of Nikanor.

One of the details of this story that appeals to me is that Nikanor had to go abroad – to Egypt – to have these doors fashioned and that they were acceptable to our ancestors. I mention this because while our people have always loved adapting foreign cultures into Jewish life – there is also a history of suspicion of anything perceived to be newly imported from outside what some might call strictly kosher circles.

And so it has been that since 1948 – the democratic State of Israel – which includes tolerance for all religious beliefs spelled out in its Declaration of Independence – read by David ben Gurion on May 14 of that year in independence hall in Tel Aviv – and has laws that separate church and state – or as we used to say in Israel: Knesset and Beit Knesset ….

Since 1948 our beloved Jewish state has refused to officially recognize Conservative or any non-Orthodox expression of Jewish religious practice or belief as legitimate – partially because it is seen as a foreign import – inauthentic Judaism.

The government funds all Orthodox synagogues and thousands of rabbis, Orthodox schools and institutions – but refuses to similarly support (for example) any of the 70 Conservative synagogues and their programs. Our rabbis are not allowed to perform weddings and our converts are not recognized as Jews. We are less than second class citizens despite the fact that more funds are raised for Israel in our synagogues than anywhere else in North America.

Why do I raise this today?

Because an election is about to take place in which your vote counts.

I am not referring to the Israeli election because no Israeli outside of the state of Israel may vote in that election unless working in an official government capacity on behalf of the state. There is no such thing as absentee ballots for Israeli citizens like myself.

But….THIS IS AN ELECTION YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO IGNORE BECAUSE ISRAEL’S CHARACTER IS IN THE BALANCE.

Our sages say, “Mishenichnas Adar, Marbim B’Simcha – “When Adar begins (and we celebrated Rosh Hodesh Adar yesterday and the day bfore) , we increase joy.”

We are required to serve God “with happiness” [ivdu et Hashem b’simha]throughout the year, yet there is special emphasis on happiness during Adar, when the miracle of Purim took place. And I have been looking for a connection between the joy of Adar and the central theme of today’s parasha, Terumah, in which the Torah commands us to build a sanctuary for God, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).

Our ancestors understood that they had to build the Mishkan (tabernacle) in the wilderness – a portable sanctuary.

Eventually King Solomon built the Beth Hamikdash (Holy Temple) in Jerusalem which stood for 410 years until it was destroyed by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnetzar. When the Jews returned to Israel after 70 years in Exile, they rebuilt the Holy Temple. And the second Temple stood for 420 years till it was destroyed by the Romans.

And I think I found a connection between the joy of Adar and the building of a place in which God would make God’s presence in a little known story of the copper gates which adorned the Temple known as the Gates of Nikanor.

So called because a man by the name of Nikanor wanted to make a special contribution to the Holy Temple. We are charged in today’s parasha to give as much as our hearts desire – asher yidvenu libo – and Nikanor must have had a very big heart, for he traveled to Alexandria in Egypt and commissioned skilled experts to make a set of elaborately designed copper doors for the Holy Temple.

When the doors were finished, he took them on a ship to go back to Israel. Half way to his destination, a severe storm broke out. The ship tilted and was in danger of sinking. The sailors decided that the doors were too heavy and had to be thrown overboard. Nikanor begged them to spare one door and they agreed.

When throwing one door overboard didn’t help, they wanted to throw the other door overboard, too. Niknor said that if they threw it into the sea, they would have to throw him in with it. And as he said this, the sea became calm.

When the ship reached the port of Acco, Nikanor descended from the ship with the remaining door. He looked out to sea, grieving for his lost door.

Suddenly, he noticed a strange object coming closer to shore. It was the other door floating toward land! Nikanor brought the doors to the Beth Hamikdash, where they were installed in a prominent place. Their location became known as “Shaar Nikanor” – “The gate of Nikanor”.

Many years later, all the doors in the Temple were replaced by golden ones. However, the copper gates of Nikanor were left as a tribute to the miracle that occurred with them and the dedication of Nikanor.

One of the details of this story that appeals to me is that Nikanor had to go abroad – to Egypt – to have these doors fashioned and that they were acceptable to our ancestors. I mention this because while our people have always loved adapting foreign cultures into Jewish life – there is also a history of suspicion of anything perceived to be newly imported from outside what some might call strictly kosher circles.

And so it has been that since 1948 – the democratic State of Israel – which includes tolerance for all religious beliefs spelled out in its Declaration of Independence – read by David ben Gurion on May 14 of that year in independence hall in Tel Aviv – and has laws that separate church and state – or as we used to say in Israel: Knesset and Beit Knesset ….

Since 1948 our beloved Jewish state has refused to officially recognize Conservative or any non-Orthodox expression of Jewish religious practice or belief as legitimate – partially because it is seen as a foreign import – inauthentic Judaism.

The government funds all Orthodox synagogues and thousands of rabbis, Orthodox schools and institutions – but refuses to similarly support (for example) any of the 70 Conservative synagogues and their programs. Our rabbis are not allowed to perform weddings and our converts are not recognized as Jews. We are less than second class citizens despite the fact that more funds are raised for Israel in our synagogues than anywhere else in North America.

Why do I raise this today?

Because an election is about to take place in which your vote counts.

I am not referring to the Israeli election because no Israeli outside of the state of Israel may vote in that election unless working in an official government capacity on behalf of the state. There is no such thing as absentee ballots for Israeli citizens like myself.
But….THIS IS AN ELECTION YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO IGNORE BECAUSE ISRAEL’S CHARACTER IS IN THE BALANCE.

But I am referring to an election which will impact directly on what happens in Israel – and on Jewish life around the world. It’s an election that has to matter to every Jew who cares about the Jewish state and the kind of society it will become, and whether or not all Jews will be able to live, practice, and pray there in keeping with their own understanding of tradition.

I am referring to the election for the World Zionist Congress which will convene later this year in Jerusalem. It will set policy and elect officers, directly influencing the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars for initiatives that will impact on the nature of Israel and its ties with world Jewry for years to come. Elections to that Congress are taking place now.

And I ask that you register and Vote MERCAZ, Slate #2, the voice of Conservative/Masorti Jews around the world, transforming into deed our passion for fashioning the Jewish state as an exemplary pluralistic and democratic society every Jew can proudly call home.

OUR CHALLENGE

MERCAZ works within the World Zionist Organization and lobbies within the Knesset for the equality of all streams of Judaism and for a society committed to peace with its neighbors, social justice, gender equality, respect for its minorities, environmental sustainability, good governance, the engagement of the next generation in shaping the Jewish future, and the security of the State of Israel and of Jews everywhere.

These are not things to be taken for granted. Orthodox hegemony in State institutions and the public sphere, mounting extremism, xenophobia, intolerance, religious coercion and the creed of self-interest are all threatening the health and vitality of Israeli society.

Israel is at a crossroads. Help MERCAZ ensure we move in the right direction.

All of us are proud of everything that Israel has already achieved.

Your vote for MERCAZ will ensure that we continue to be proud of all it is yet to become.

“It is true we aspire to return to the soil of our homeland, but what we want in that ancient land is a new blossoming of the Jewish spirit… ” Theodor Herzl, architect of the World Zionist Organization

OUR VISION
A vote for MERCAZ is a vote for

– Pluralism, equality and religious freedom

– Strengthening ties between Israel and Jews around the world

– Keeping Israel safe –

– Progressive environmentalism,

– Support for the Conservative/Masorti Movement in Israel and its efforts to ensure that government funding is available to grow our dynamic institutions, synagogues, schools and rabbis as it is for those affiliated with the Orthodox.

On March 8 – the Sunday following the AIPAC conference in Washington which about a dozen of us are planning to attend for the first time as official representatives of Temple Beth El – on March 8 we will launch here at Beth El a course entitled “I Engage Israel” sponsored by the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

The Sunday classes will alternate between Beth El and Congregation Beth Sholom and will be taught by 8 local Conservative and Orthodox rabbis as well as Hartman scholars.

I am scheduled to teach the session on religious pluralism at which time we will explore the issues which are the meat of the Mercaz agenda for the world Zionist elections. In the meant time I hope that you will take home these handouts and register to vote online.

Soon we will provide additional information by mail to encourage your involvement.

For years we have been asked to support the Jewish state – everyone asher yidvenu libo – in accord with what your heart tells you to do. And we have helped create and sustain the State of Israel.

Now we have to guarantee Israel’s spiritual state as well as the state itself by directing our energies to supporting Mercaz which will promote the values which inspire us to identify as Conservative Jews.

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Our Judaism – Our Israel – Our Future

Vote Mercaz Slate #2

www.votemercaz.org

Rabbi Paul Drazen – pdrazen@votemercaz.org