Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Terumah 74 - The Shulchan - table and Collaborative Living

The parasha- portion reading of Terumah deals mainly with the Mishkan-tabernacle and its components.  The table – shulchan was placed near the north wall of the Tabernacle's outer chamber, had 12 specially baked loaves of ' show-bread' on it at all times, in 2 columns of 6 each. Frankincense was placed on the loaves. They were baked on Friday and put on the   table on the Sabbath. The old loaves miraculously remained fresh, were divided amongst the priests- cohanim.

 Like the Ark, the table had a crown – the rim. The crown of the table symbolized the ' crown of kingship'. God's material blessings   flowed through the table and its loaves topped up with fragrant frankincense, to the people and ensured material well- being and abundance which came with ease and comfort.  The table had some complete measurements indicating that people can be ' complete' as far as their material needs are concerned and their ' inwards' be blessed so a little satisfies a lot. But the height of the table- shulchan was a broken measure 1.5 cubits warning against haughtiness and encouraging continuous spiritual growth. The table was made out of wood depicting the dynamic nature of economic growth and blessing. The wooden table was plated with gold to remind us that our intentions in striving for material success must be holy and pure and for the good of people. The protective rim or crown was a barrier reminding us to keep out baser motives and that our material success stands upon purity and holiness. The 12  loaves , representing the 12 tribes , were shaped like a letter ' U'- a flat bottom  and ends turned upward  with a slight fold on the tops, so that the' arms' of each loaf seemed to support the loaf above it. Each individual loaf was supported by metal tubes so that their 'outstretched arms' would be able to bear the burden of the other loaves. This paints a picture of material success based on a commitment to the well- being of the community as a whole as well as ourselves and other individuals. This means attending to the needs of others, but at the same time making sure that our own economic concerns and needs are being met.

The table is symbolic of material well- being and abundance based on our commitment to ourselves and also the family, classroom or community.  But when we look around we witness family fights about who is going to sit where and when it comes to food – either it looks like that some kids have never seen food in their lives or some kids are such ' picky' eaters that can never be satisfied.

We can use the CPS – collaborative problem solving approach to ensure that the spirit of the table – meeting the concerns of the group as a whole and its individuals – can be expressed by our families.
Seating at the table. -  Problems should be solved in a pro-active way and not in the moment – in the heat of the moment. We can arrange a family meeting to discuss the issue. The focus must be first on ' concerns' - where I want to sit is a solution to a concern. Possible concerns – the need to sit next to somebody who would offer help , feel left out of the conversation because of the seating , need access to the kitchen , bathroom etc. We should try to speak in the plural – we and us. This helps kid see themselves as part of the family and that individual choice per se may be limited , but not choice itself , as there are so many more opportunities when we work as a family .

Picky or gluttonous eating habits – We should try and encourage Mindful Eating   where the focus is on tasting food rather than filling one's stomach and cleaning the plate. Kids are asked just to taste the food , they don't have to finish and clean their plates. It helps to have small quantities but plenty of variety.  The taste of food is considered the spiritual part of food. Mindful eating helps kids focus on the process of eating, and this has enormous benefits for the digestive system and obesity . Kids also develop a taste for different foods. It is also helps people to practice mindful eating when there is no talking while people are eating.Mindful eating thus facilitates God's blessing - our insides are blessed so a little goes a long way.

When the holy temple existed , the altar would be an atonement for the people of Israel. Today , as the temple and the altar no longer exist , our tables atone for us. They atone for us when we use our tables to feed the poor or needy , and for families to connect in a way , that shows caring and dialogue which is filled with words of Torah.

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