Thinking Big
February 28, 2020
By Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein
Why We Should Aspire to do the Things Seemingly Beyond our Reach

Over the past month, I have witnessed the set of our Purim spiel come to life. Based on the hit musical and movie “Mamma Mia”, our “Megillah Mia” spiel takes place in the Greek isles with rolling hills and pristine white houses, a far cry for our red carpeted bima where the play will be performed.

To bring that world to life, a team of volunteers led by Julia Cohan and Elaine Kellick, have worked tirelessly to paint large five feet by three feet panels in the style of an old “Mamma Mia” movie poster. Mind you, those involved are not artists by trade, nor did they have much experience working on set design, other than working on previous years’ spiels.

They started by making the outlines of the houses in pencil, gradually filling it in with color, and eventually adding familiar Western New York staples like Tim Hortons and Paula’s Donuts to give it a familiar feeling. The greatest part of the project is that anyone who had time was encouraged to come in and participate; even Cantor Frank got a few brushstrokes in. In the end, what seemed like an impossible task became a realized vision that will add greatly to the experience on the night of March 9th.  To get a preview, you can watch this video!

This Shabbat we begin reading about the process of building the Tabernacle, a months long project that will take us through the remainder of Exodus. Parashat Terumah is the launch of what must have also seemed at first an impossible task. I can only imagine the shock on our ancestor’s faces: “God wants what from us?”

Collecting every finery available to them, the ancient Israelites had to create a pop-up structure, that would rival anything humans, at that time, had every attempted to build. And, they had to do so in their bedraggled state as newly freed slaves without the resources available to an established empire.

While, no evidence of the Tabernacle remains, as it was transitioned to a permanent space in the form of the First Temple, the project was by all accounts an overwhelming success. Why? Because of the generosity of spirit described at the beginning of the portion, where everyone “yidvenu libo” “whose heart so moved them” (Exodus 25:2) contributed, and because of the diligence of the leadership to pull it off, not to mention a huge help from the Almighty in the design. What comes through during the entire process is not fear of failure, but the joy of possibility. The ancient Israelites encourage each other and they encourage us to reach beyond ourselves to create things that make this beautiful world, all the more beautiful.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein is the spiritual leader at Congregation Shir Shalom.

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