My rebbe, Reb Zalman, Rabbi Zalman Schacter Shalomi, z"l, gave over many teachings in his lifetime, as we study Parashat Terumah, two particular teachings resonate. The eighth verse in the parashah reads; "They shall make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell in their midst, among them" Exodus 25:8. Our ancestors were to build the Mikdash, the holy place, so that The Divine Presence would dwell among them. This desert structure was called the Mishkan. We, the descendants of these builders, continue through our lives and our labors, to build this structure, to make the world a place of radiant wonder, so that the Holy One might dwell among us. Reb Zalman's first teaching opens here. He took these three Hebrew words: ken, yes, Mishkan, Dwelling Place, Shekhinah,the Divine Presence, to make the teaching. Of course, you must visualize; it is easier to see in the Hebrew! At the center of these two words, Mishkan and Shekhinah, is the word yes, ken, kaf nun, in Hebrew. Reb Zalman urged us to awaken each morning with our vibrant Yes! to the world! Recognizing that our souls have been returned to us with the Holy One's rabba emunatecha, great faith, in each one of us that we should have another day to be in covenant with G-d, to do mitzvot, to be in as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught 'radical amazement.' To sustain our yes! in the face of the suffering, the brokenness, the deep turmoil and despair, the chaos and the violence, the hatred that spews so freely; we must be vigilant. To sustain our yes! requires our acknowledgement that we are building the Mishkan, the Dwelling Place for the Shekinah, the Divine Presence, that dwells within every human being and within the world.
Rabbi Zalman gave another teaching to sustaining our yes. This is the teaching upon hearing the sirens from emergency vehicles; from ambulances to fire engines to police cars, emergency vehicles with sirens blasting are part of our daily living. Reb Zalman taught that when we hear a siren whether it disturbs our sleep or causes us to pull to the side of the road and puts a glitch in our hurrying; he explained that our response was to be one of pause and prayer. Our yes! in that moment is one of deep connection to other human beings; we stop and recognize the peril, the danger, the fear, the pain that other human beings are experiencing and the courage, the strength, the calm, the protection that the rescuers hope to bring. He encouraged us to make a prayer for those times. This is the prayer I say, "May HaShem and malachei HaShem, G-d's angel messengers, be with those who are rescued and those who rescue and may each one 'cross over to safety.' Amein"