Terumah Storahblog: Biblical Beautification
By Jon Adam Ross
Two weeks ago, Al and Florence Green celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary at Congregation Beth Emeth in Wilmington, Delaware. This past Shabbat, Isadore Alex Wolfson and I were at Beth Emeth to perform our maven of Parshat Terumah, “Biblical Beautification.” I was Art K. Tecture, a biblical continuity expert, there to retrofit the sanctuary to meet biblical specifications (see: goat hair rain tarp). And Alex played the role of the synagogue’s resident angel, having been at the shul for ages and ages and vouching for the sanctuary’s holiness despite lacking unicorn skins and goat hair in the construction design. In establishing his ‘resident angel’ bona fides, Alex made reference to the fact that he was at Al and Florence Green’s 63rd wedding anniversary celebration. It made Al and Florence laugh; the whole congregation joined in. No one saw it coming – but we had done our homework. We got a tip from our friend Sue Paul, the adult education committee co-chair (with Deb Heffernan) who coordinated our Storahtelling Shabbat. But there is no way we could have prepared for the enthusiastic response we got the entire time we were in Wilmington.
From the moment we arrived at Beth Emeth on Friday evening, it felt like we were among family. Alex and I joined the 8th graders and their families for Shabbat dinner before services, and in between hanging out with the students, Alex and I did a short introduction to what Storahtelling was and what we would be doing that night and the next day. After dinner, we joined the congregation for a warm and wonderful Friday night service led by Cantor Stanton and Rabbi Robinson and during which we provided a “setting the stage” for the next morning’s show. In fact, the buzz about Storahtelling was so happening that the shul had to open up its social hall for extra seating (something it does only on Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Purim!). Nearly as many people joined us the next morning as we did our maven version of parshat Terumah and there were more than 125 people who stayed for the Meet the Maven workshop after lunch. The most I had ever seen in my 10 years with Storahtelling! The workshop was compelling and exciting and multi-generational with both young kids and senior citizens tossing up their own original translations of the “Shema.” It was a perfect ending to a perfect Shabbat. But it wasn’t over yet.
As we were packing up to leave, we got a surprise visit in the conference room of the synagogue – Al and Florence Green wanted to give us a hug! We didn’t need an introduction. Sue Paul knocked on the door and said, “I have some people who want to meet the two of you.” Alex and I looked up and I said “Florence?!” and she said “Jon!” and we hugged as Alex and Al rehashed memories of past life cycle events at which Alex, as the resident angel, must have also attended. The point of our maven show earlier that morning was that though Parshat Terumah lays out the blueprint for the mishkan, a model for the modern sanctuary, in these modern times we don’t need goat skins to make our sanctuaries holy. We need each other, in the space together, as a community with intention. The sanctuary at Beth Emeth needs no help in that department. We may have been brought to share Torah through performance, but we were just the lucky ones who got to bear witness to their show – of warmth, of holiness, of biblical beautification.
-Jon Adam Ross Feb, 2010