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Friday, 28 February, 2020 - 9:35 am



In this week's portion, we start reading about the construction of the Mishkan, portable Temple, that the Jews build in the desert. In painstaking detail, we learn the precise measurements and materials that G-d wanted to be used in the construction. 

The amount of attention this building gets in the Torah text is astounding. This is because of the centrality of the Temple to the Jewish mission.

Building a home for G-d is the central theme of the entire Torah. Yes, the home described in this week's reading took the form of a physical structure in a specific place, but it is symbolic of the broader Temple that we are to build: making space for G-d in every area of our lives. Every Mitzvah is a sacred channel for the divine and builds a conceptual home for G-d in our world. G-d's role is to create the world; our role is to make a home for Him in that creation.

Often, as we become so preoccupied with everyday activities, we allow ourselves to become distracted and forget what is really important and relevant.  As Jews, we have an ongoing mission and responsibility: to maintain that role that G-d has created for us in this world, by constantly being aware of the world around us so that we may continue never forget to look after each other.

As we welcome Hashem into our lives and feel the resulting happiness, we can learn from one of our younger members how our relationship to others can make a difference.

We are so proud of one of our recent Hebrew School and Bat mitzvah graduates, Sadie Lipman, whose prize-winning essay placed first in the Laws of Life essay contest ahead of more than 1,000 entries.

Her topic of showing kindness and respect to others was written with courage, confidence, knowledge, and a personal touch that is both gratifying and humbling. And let us not forget to mention, a lot of writing talent!

I never tire of hearing how a perfect stranger, Chiune Sugihara, is responsible for my family’s existence by saving my grandfather’s life.

Although Sadie lives in better times, she shows sensitivity and empathy far beyond her years. We are so proud of her as we congratulate her for this outstanding essay.


Sadie Lipman 

Community School of Naples

Stacy Keibler once said “Show kindness and respect towards everyone. Pure intentions make the biggest difference.” Pure intentions always come from the heart and often go against the advised actions. With pure intentions and an overall respect for humanity, one person can change the world. Chinese diplomat Ho Feng-Shan was one of those people.

Kristallnacht, one of the most horrifying nights in history, was the start of a time where Europeans believed Jews to be unwelcome and dangerous. Alarmingly, almost 200,000 Jews were living in Austria at the time, all in need of asylum. Out of thirty-two countries that gathered, only the Dominican Republic offered to help; however, they had a limit on the refugees they could take. In his own country of China, Ho was told the same. His value of the safety of 100,000 strangers outweighed his respect for his supervisors, though. He ended up writing tens of thousands of visas to help Jews flee danger. Because of Ho, thousands of Jews survived the Holocaust and were able to make homes in Shanghai and around the world. Despite his unwavering selflessness, Ho Feng-Shan was exiled from his home country as a result of his actions. Three years after his death, the Israeli organization Yad Vashem honored him with the title of “Righteous Among the Nations,” granting all of his progeny legal citizenship in Israel.

Just a couple thousand miles away, a Japanese councilman called Chiune Sugihara did almost the exact same thing. He, too, was eventually ousted from his homeland, but even as he was on the train out, he was writing and throwing visas out the window! One of those visas landed in the hand of a man named Rabbi Moshe Rubin. Because of Sugihara’s altruistic actions, Rubin found his way out of inevitable death and created a home in the United States of America; the place that was welcoming to everyone. There, he made a family and eventually had a grandson named Fishel Zaklos, who moved to Naples, Florida where he currently leads a temple of his own. Rabbi Fishel, a man who wouldn’t even be alive if not for Sugihara’s work, became a very influential person in my own life. For the past five years, he has been my rabbi. 

Indirectly through Sugihara’s selfless choices, I have been affected. Without the kindness and respect that the councilman had for strangers he didn’t even know the names of, I would be a totally different person. From both Chiune Sugihara and Ho Feng Shan, I have learned selflessness, courage, and the importance of having an open and respectful attitude towards everyone, because if I do, I can change the world.


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