D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
Spirituality is the ability to get our minds off ourselves
At its core the 12-Step program is a spiritual one. As a process of surrendering one’s ego to a higher power or the God of our understanding, working the steps engenders a sense of acceptance and detachment. As Carl Jung wrote, recovery from alcoholism requires a spiritual cure equal to the power of alcohol. The Big Book states that entering the world of the spirit means leaving the world of self-centeredness and a focus on materialistic things. It means embracing unconditional love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control and humility. Becoming spiritual is not a goal but rather something we need to work on over the course of our lives.
In this week’s double portion Vayakhel/Pikudei, we come to the end of the Book of Exodus. These two portions are the last in a series of five interconnected portions having to do with the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary. Towards that end the Israelites not only donate their possessions but devote their own time and skills to this communal project.
Let’s face it up until now the Israelites have been a bit self-absorbed – unable to see beyond themselves. Within three days of crossing the Sea of Reeds they were complaining about the lack of and the quality of their food and water. When Moses was with God and away from them they grumbled about how long he was gone. That grumbling led to the incident of the Golden Calf.
In helping to build the Mishkan the Israelites were being asked to set aside their complaints; to cease their grumbling. They were asked to participate in something beyond themselves; something with a greater purpose. They were asked to create a spiritual center in the middle of the desert that would allow God to dwell among them. It would be a place of spiritual activity where God could communicate with Moses; where the Israelites could bring sacrifices to atone for their sins; where the people could express their gratitude. Even more, it was a place where the Israelites could tap into their spirituality and find the ability to get their minds off themselves.