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Religion Transforms the Mundane into the Sacred

03/15/2023 03:36:38 PM


Rabbi Malcolm Cohen

The smell from the Kol Ami kitchen was intoxicating. I craned my neck around the door in hope. “Come in!” was the message from the Hamantaschen baking crew of the Men of Kol Ami. So, I put on my ‘hungry face’ and angled to taste their glorious offerings. Would it be cherry or chocolate? Either way, the innate generosity and pride of the bakers allowed me to sample their wares. On the face of it, this Purim baking exercise just involved flour, eggs, sugar, and labor. But, these basic ingredients were being transformed into something much more. Hamantaschen, as you know, is a playful pastry link to the Purim story and a none-too-subtle dig at Haman, our enemy. More than that, though, a bond was forged amongst the Kol Ami members, friendships were strengthened, and a religious tradition was raised up. 
In the Torah portion Vayakheil-Pekudei, which we read during the week I am writing this blog, the powerful and complex object of the Tabernacle in the wilderness is nothing much to care about in its original form. Panels of wood, collections of metal, animal skins, and various kinds of cloth. Only when the Israelites work together to assemble these constituent parts, devote their time and wealth, and build the Tabernacle with love, that significance is breathed into them. At the end of this great Book of Exodus, the Jewish People have built a home for the Divine Presence in their midst and a symbol of their unity at their heart. 
The greatness of a religion is that it transforms the mundane into the sacred, takes commonplace objects and concepts and elevates them to connect us to the heavenly realm. The next step is to see ourselves as potential vessels for the sacred. We are just common people, led by our desires and wants, but when we take the teachings of our holy heritage to heart, we become transformed, each of us, into ‘Kli-El’, a vessel for the Divine. We become a Tabernacle, a home for God here on earth, with the potential to change the world around us and mold it into a place of peace and goodness. 
Tue, June 6 2023 17 Sivan 5783