This configuration rings true to me today. I picture volunteers in my community working shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen preparing meals for homeless “tent city” residents or a multigenerational group marching for justice and equality arm-in-arm, like a wall of planks.
Two strikingly similar phrases appear in back-to-back chapters of the book of Exodus regarding the construction of the Mishkan, the desert Tabernacle, the portable spiritual home of the Israelites. First, a pair of cherubim (winged angelic beings) are commissioned to sit atop the Ark, facing each other, which the text describes as “ish el achiv,” “a man to his brother.” Then in the following chapter, we learn about how the Mishkan structure itself is to be assembled, with planks of wood whose tenons and sockets fit together “isha el achotah,” “a woman to her sister.”
These two phrases are identical, save for the one (notable) difference of gender. The reasons for the difference is straightforward: k’ruvim (cherubim) is a masculine noun in Hebrew and yadot (tenons) a feminine noun. However, the visual pictures the two verses paint are quite different: the cherubim’s orientation dictates that they face in toward each other, whereas the planks must be laid in parallel, side-by-side.
In a place of privilege, the cherubim reside in the center of the Tabernacle, inside the Holy of Holies, on top of the Ark that contains the tablets of the commandments. And yet their face-to-face orientation exists only within the confines of the side-by-side planks, which form the very structure of the Tabernacle.
This configuration rings true to me today. I picture volunteers in my community working shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen preparing meals for homeless “tent city” residents or a multigenerational group marching for justice and equality arm-in-arm, like a wall of planks. This shoulder-to-shoulder framework — with directional alignment toward a common goal, and through inter-group partnerships and alliances — allows us to build the Tabernacles of today: communities and societies capable of housing the most intimate face-to-face encounters.
I had been eagerly awaiting my first Kavana Partner Meeting. We brought the whole family, showed up early to help set up, and looked forward to being pleasantly surprised by whatever this much-talked-about event would bring.
Sometimes it's hard for me to wrap my head around the time scale of Jewish history. A week and a half ago, we recalled the Exodus from Egypt, an event that took place some 3500 years ago, while sitting around seder tables much like our rabbinic ancestors might have done 2000 years ago. Our Jewish tradition connects us to the ancient past, and that is part of the great power of it.
Yesterday morning, many in the Kavana community were marking the 8th day of Pesach with a truly beautiful and uplifting Shabbat/Festival morning service. Unbeknownst to us at the time, 1250 miles south, Jews similarly gathered were experiencing a terrifying attack on their synagogue. Just six months after the attack on Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, it leaves a pit in our stomachs to think that perhaps this is becoming a pattern.