Even though parashah T’tzaveh is not read until this month, I find myself writing today on December 31, 2020. Like so many of us, I’m reflecting on this past year and moving towards the light that is 2021. In this week’s Torah portion, we are taught about the pure oil needed to light the sanctuary. Our Torah reads, “You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring clear oil of beaten olives for lighting for kindling lamps regularly.” Aaron and his sons set them up in the tent of meeting. The oil needed for that eternal light in the sanctuary is exactly what makes me so hopeful.
I look forward to returning to our synagogue and seeing that eternal light. For now, the light lives through our clergy and staff who keep services, classes, and life cycle events going. I chair a group of committed volunteers called Temple Cares, which provides meals for our members in need and makes calls to our isolated members through our new Buddy System. We host a Zoom meeting once a month called Caregiver Cafe, a support group for caregivers. These are just a few shining examples of our volunteers who light up our Temple community.
This parashah also states, “…have Aaron and his sons serve Me as priests. Make for them sacred garments using fine linen, gold, and blue, purple, and scarlet yarns. Make for them a breast-piece ephod, a robe, a tunic of checkered work, and a sash. These garments must always be worn when officiating in My sanctuary.”
After reading this paragraph, I thought about attending services, meetings, funerals, weddings, etc., dressed for Zoom from the waist up. I made sure on those days to apply make-up and wear some jewelry. We found ourselves still meeting, but virtually was the way to go. We attended WRJ conferences virtually - which may not have been our first choice, but we stepped up to the plate and did it with ease. We attended workshops and meaningful Shabbat services and installations. We learned to adapt and be flexible. We had our music, but I missed the dancing. Nevertheless, we look forward to meeting again in person in a safe environment. We have so much to look forward to in the coming year.
As Jews, we are constantly reminded of not only the light burning in our sanctuary but also the responsibility for us to be the light. We’ve witnessed so much goodness during this past year and seen tragedy. Hopefully, in the end, the good outweighs the darkness, and we can find real meaning in what we’ve all experienced. I know we will never forget this pause we had to take from life as we knew it. I believe we will never take our family and friends for granted again. I believe a warm tight hug, and even a touch will have more meaning than ever before. May we all come out better on the other end. May we be stronger knowing we had to live differently, and may we learn to be the light and find the light in others.
Amen and Shabbat Shalom.
Debbie Jackson is a member of Temple Israel in Memphis, Tennessee, where she served as Sisterhood President. She also served for the Southwest District Board and is currently serving on the North American Board of Directors.