Photo Credit: pixabay

{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

I felt that someone sitting far away in the restaurant was violating our conversation’s privacy. I wasn’t concerned about his listening into our conversation; he was far too busy shouting into his phone to overhear. The threat I experienced was from his lack of any protection of his privacy as he shared deeply personal information as if no one else could hear. We were having a private conversation in a room with someone who did not honor privacy, and, his attitude was surprisingly contagious. The person I was with, despite his focus, was unconsciously echoing some of the noisemaker’s words and phrases.

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As I was mulling over contagious conversations, I found in my notes on this week’s portion a quote from the Swiss philosopher, Henri Frédéric Amiel, “Pure truth cannot be assimilated by the crowd; it must be communicated by contagion.”

I had been wondering about the role of contagion in the Mishkan, Tabernacle, introduced in the portion. “They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell in their midst (Exodus 25:8).” The Torah introduces the Mishkan, as the Place of Dwelling for the Divine Presence, and its other role as the place from which God will communicate with us almost as an afterthought. After completing the instructions for the Ark of Covenant’s design and construction, God mentions, “It is there that I will set My meetings with you, and I shall speak with you from atop the Cover, from between the two Cherubim that are on the Ark.”

We were not instructed to make the Ark and its Cover in order to have a place from which God will communicate with us, but were informed that the Cover and the Cherubim would serve as a Divine Morse Code machine (Sefer Rokei’ach). Sefer Chasidim (959) teaches that the two Cherubim were to remind us that our connection to God was to be a conversation. When God informed us, after the instructions for its construction, “Oh, by the way, that’s where I’ll communicate with you,” it was as a response to our efforts to build the Ark. Our actions instigated the conversation, and the conversation continued to contagiously spread through the Mishkan and its Courtyard.

It is only after we learn that the Ark was a conversation machine that God gives us the instructions for the Table and Menorah. The structure and all its vessels result from the conversation spreading from the Ark out into our lives.

How often do the ideas we discuss when studying, praying, and performing Mitzvot, spread to our Shabbat table conversations? There is a difference between insisting that someone share a Torah thought, and being desperate to share an insight we had into the portion. How often do we hear an idea we are desperate to share? How many of our Torah conversations are contagiously spreading through our lives and friends?

Torah conversations that are not contagious do not construct a dwelling place for the Divine Presence. Contagious conversations, do. Ideas we feel compelled to share, insights we are desperate to impart, powerful experiences we can’t wait to reveal, are all contagious, and they, brick by brick, transform our homes into a Dwelling Place for the Divine Presence.

Shabbat Shalom

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