The phrase of 2020 may very well become "social distancing." This term is the call for us to remain apart from one another so that we can end the spread of COVID-19.
But I'd like us to use a different term: "Physical distancing."
We may be physically distant from one another this week and for an unknown amount of time moving forward, but we have the opportunity to remain socially and spiritually close.
Ironically, our Torah portion this week, Vayakhel-Pekudei, begins with the word vayakehl, meaning, assemble. That's right. In the midst of physical distancing, our Torah portion speaks of the gathering and coming together of the Israelites.
And why are they coming together?
They're coming together to build something beautiful, the Mishkan, God's dwelling place as they travel through the wilderness.
Friends, we too are building a new Mishkan together this week, a digital gathering place to bring God's presence into our lives, into our homes, and to be with our families.
Now, the difference between us and the Israelites is that they received the instructions a few weeks ago in Parashat Terumah, and only this week, in Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei are beginning construction, having been given quite a bit of time to prepare. In contrast, many of us are in a "learn as we go" phase of building: From how to work remotely from home, to how to help our kids go to school from home, to how to connect with friends during this physical distancing, to how to stay active with the gym closed, to how to safely get groceries (and toilet paper)-and the list of changes goes on and on.
In our own ways, many of us are fulfilling the roles of Betzalel and Oholiab, the appointed chief architects and craftsmen of the Mishkan. We have been called upon by our community or our family units to figure out the next steps to build something beautiful. In the midst of change, anxiety, and the mourning of events we dreamed of attending, there are also sparks of light, hope, and opportunity.
Let us assemble. Let us build a new Mishkan together. Let us join together (virtually) in spiritual, educational, and prayerful moments. Though we may be physically distant, let us bring the light of God into our lives and share it with the world. We need it. Our world needs it. Perhaps God needs it too.