Going for Gold

February 14, 2013 1:33 am 0 comments

A model tabernacle.

Did you know that, according to the Midrash (commentary), gold was only created to beautify the Beit Hamikdash, our holy temple in Jerusalem. That’s right. It wasn’t created to sit in Fort Knox or to stabilize the world’s currencies or even for commodity traders to make the occasional windfall. And it was most definitely not put on this earth to adorn our bathroom sink handles. The rabbis taught that if the community could easily afford it, even the floors of the Beit Hamikdash should be paved with gold!

This week’s parsha (bible portion) deals with the construction of the first Mishkan (tabernacle), the portable temple in the days of Moses and we read of much attention to detail. Gold, silver, copper and other precious metals were donated by the Israelites to create a beautiful dwelling place for the Divine Presence. Similarly, we are taught to beautify all our mitzvahs (commandments). Silver crowns for the Torah, a fine-looking Menorah, a handsome Etrog Box, these are but some of the ways we show respect for that which is sacred in our lives.

Now, obviously, G-d doesn’t need our gold and silver. But from our side we ought to make that which is important to us as beautiful as possible. A Shul can be a humble hut but we need to demonstrate what our values are and where our priorities lie. To give honour and glory by beautifying His Holy House is one way of paying homage to G-d and thereby acknowledging the source of all our blessings.

The late Chief Rabbi LI Rabinowitz once penned an eloquent contrast between the ‘cathedral’ type synagogue over which, ironically, he himself presided and the simple little chassidic shtibl of old. Everything was elegant and pristinely clean in the glorious domed Great Synagogue while the unadorned shtibl was anything but grand. On the one hand, the residue of the kichel, herring and schnapps on the tables at the back didn’t exactly inspire reverence for the celestial. And yet, wrote Rabinowitz, there was a certain spirit there that was lacking in the formal synagogues. There one could sense the scent of a sincere genuine prayer, hear a heartfelt yiddishe krechtz (Jewish sigh) and be warmed by a special sense of chaverschaft and camaraderie.

Nevertheless, we should be asking ourselves whether we are paying enough attention to the state of our synagogues. Would we accept that our private properties be as poorly maintained as we do for G-d’s property? Why is it that in our own homes the bathrooms are not only clean but Italian-tiled while the Shul facilities are all too often a shameful schmutz (dirt)?

I remember getting a call one day from a wealthy man who had just finished building a magnificent new home. He asked whether it was true that all the doorways in the home required a mezzuzah. When I answered in the affirmative, he complained bitterly at the high cost of mezzuzahs. Frankly, I had little sympathy knowing how many millions he had just spent on the house. Never mind the building costs; for every latest gadget and accessory he had money – but for the mezzuzahs suddenly finance was a problem. We go out to posh restaurants and spend lavishly to dine out in style – and then complain bitterly about the price of kosher food. We will happily pay fortunes for the Bar Mitzvah or wedding party with all that goes with it and then resent why the Shul charged as much as it did for the Chupah (wedding canop y)or why we were asked for a donation on the Bimah (synagogue altar). The caterers, florists, musicians, printers, party coordinators, entertainers etc all make a living on the simcha, and the Shul that was responsible for the main event is an afterthought.

My Shul President once told me that once, before Rosh Hashanah, he was seeing congregants who wanted to book seats for the High Holy Days. One woman asked to be subsidized. When he asked her about her circumstances and why she had fallen on hard times, she replied that she hadn’t at all. Why then was she requesting a discount on the normal fees? It turned out that she discovered that her sister-in-law had been subsidized. So if discounts were going, she wanted one too.

I know it is a long-standing Jewish tradition to drive a hard bargain and make sure you get value for money and why not look for a metziyah (bargain) if you can find one? But that should not apply to our religious, educational or communal institutions. Especially when it comes to the synagogue we should remember why gold was created in the first place – to decorate, adorn and beautify our places of worship. By all means, live well. Spend on yourself and your family and enjoy. But let us try and give at least equal respect to the House of G-d.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs 10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    Ten major film studios are currently in production on projects that promote a decidedly pro-Israeli narrative. In famously liberal Hollywood, such a development has left mouths agape and set tongues a wagging. Since the Jewish State began defending itself from the thousands of rockets that Hamas has hurled at it – as well as ongoing terror attacks and murders, the overwhelming number of Tinseltown’s producers, directors, actors, and studio moguls have remained indifferent to the plight of millions of Israeli [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Sports So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    Israeli Judoka Yarden Gerbi (63kg), 25, of Netanya, on Thursday lost the final round at the Judo World Cup, and her world title to Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, at a match held in Russia. “I have mixed feelings,” Gerbi told Israeli Army radio. But, “I shouldn’t assume that I’d win the world Judo championship twice in a row,” she admitted. Gerbi won gold in Rio De Janeiro last year. “When I made my decision, I knew it was going to [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    “Jews Out!” was just the name of a child’s game that three little girls played in World War II Europe. But all is not as it seems because the three girls were Jewish, but hiding their true identities. In award-winning author R. D. Rosen’s riveting non-fiction work, Such Good Girls, “Jews Out!” wasn’t a game; it was a struggle for survival. The girls, Sophie, Flora, and Carla, grew up at a time and a place that did not allow them [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the morale of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.