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Trumah- The Jewish Demographic Study

Friday, 16 February, 2018 - 10:32 am

Elliott Lasky was like many others, in the sixties, who challenged the status quo, in their search for meaning in life. He thought of finding answers in Buddhism then in music, but even after a two-month stint playing the Rolling Stones on tour in the summer of 1972, he was still searching for a more meaningful path.

He found himself on a bitterly cold day in the winter of 1973 waiting for the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the steps of the famous 770 building in Brooklyn, the red brick house, which serves as the center of the Chabad movement.

Sporting a large beard, shoulder-length hair, snake-skin boots, jeans, and a leather jacket, he approached the Rebbe who had just left his car. In Yiddish he knew from home, he turned to the Rebbe and asked, "Excuse me, are you the Lubavitcher Rebbe?" And from there a 15-minute conversation ensued, which he describes as a most moving one.

"I have a question," he went straight to the point, "where is G-d?" “Everywhere”, the Rebbe replied. "I know," said Elliot, "but where?" The Rebbe answered again: "Everywhere, even in the tree and in the stone.”

“I know”, Elliott said again, as their eyes were still locked, “but where?!” After a pause, the Rebbe responded: “In your heart. G-d is in your heart.”

Elliot Lasky stood beside the Rebbe just a few steps from the synagogue, but when he asked where G-d was, the answer was not: here behind you in the synagogue. The answer was: everywhere, in everything you encounter, and most importantly, in your heart too.

With the release of the latest Jewish demographic study in the Greater Washington area this past week, there is an important element I want to focus on. For some years now, grim forecasts have dominated the discussions regarding the Jewish future in America, pointing to the low numbers of Jews affiliating with “Brick-and-Mortar” Synagogues.

I beg to differ. Jews are onto something big and I think they took a page out of this week’s Torah portion.

“And they should build for me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell among them” we read from the Torah this week. The commentaries are quick to notice: it does not say “Dwell in it”, rather “in them” – it must mean that G-d wants to be at home, in the heart and mind of each individual.

Of course Synagogues are integral to Jewish practice, however, for some, the role of Synagogues in the Jewish experience led to confusion. If I relegate my Judaism to the four walls of the Synagogue, my Judaism will be lacking and empty. No, the Cantor will not pray for me, and the Rabbi will not study for me, I need to experience it myself. Judaism and G-d need to be built in my heart!

Jews seek meaningful Jewish experiences not merely in the synagogue, but in our everyday lives. At our dinner table, at work or on a road trip. We immerse the family in a weekly highlight at the Friday night Shabbat dinner, or make infuse meaning into the day by listening to Torah class on-the-go.

Let us harness the movement of making Judaism ever more relevant in our personal lives, and seek opportunities to introduce more Mitzvos and more study in our daily routines!

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