In Pekude as we conclude reading the book of Shemot (Exodus), the Mishkan (the desert Temple) is inaugurated. The portion begins with a recount of how much gold, silver, and other precious materials were used in its construction. The Torah then describes how each of the objects, including the ark, the table, the altars, the wash basins and the candelabra were carefully placed with precision into particular spots in the Temple. However, instead of just leaving them there for a moment to admire them, the Torah immediately says the following (Chapter 40):
‘4 And thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the bread that is upon it; and thou shalt bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof. 7 And thou shalt set the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar, and shalt put water therein. 9 And thou shalt take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the furniture thereof; and it shall be holy.’
An object is most beautiful when it is used, and not when it is simply sitting upon a pedestal. We make something holy, not by simply making it, but by using it. This is one of the qualities I love so much about Bevis Marks Synagogue. It isn’t just a historic building, but it is a living place where we can touch, walk, sit, and even inhale its beauty and sanctity. In fact what makes it so beautiful and holy is that it is used. Bevis Marks is a living place that is daily the setting for religious devotion and inspiration, as it has been for over three centuries. Whilst we treat this space with great care, cognisant of its historic value, we appreciate that its true value, its kedusha, sanctity, is in the ongoing role that it plays in people’s contemporary religious lives.
To build a synagogue-community everyone needs to participate, whether by joining, helping to set up the kiddush, leading the services, welcoming newcomers, or contributing time and resources. Of course, the most important way to strengthen a synagogue, and ensure its survival and flourishing, is through attending. Our synagogue, our mikdash me’at (miniature Temple) , is most special when it is being used. I therefore invite you to join me in this holy endeavour, and whether you live in London, or come to London from abroad for a visit, please join us for services (held daily) at Bevis Marks Synagogue. It will be my pleasure to welcome you!