By Rabbi Benjie Gruber
Two recent Torah portions, Teruma and Tetzaveh, deal with the Mishkan or Tabernacle, the tent/desert Temple/home for God that travelled around the desert for 40 years with the people of Israel. At every stop, it was put together, and as they were leaving to travel on, it was taken apart once again.
The people of Israel and the tabernacle were always Baderech – on the way. Some say the journey is what matters and not where you arrive. Baderech is also the name of the Beit Midrash study group we have here on Yahel, created and run by Yair Tobias, supported by the Israel Reform Movement (IMPJ) and others. It is the only post-army Reform program existing in Israel today. I am privileged to teach these young men and women, mostly from a secular background, as they search for a connection to a modern-Israeli Judaism that they can feel at home with. They are searching for their tabernacle, a dwelling place to work and study. At this point, Yahel and the Arava is that place for them.
Others in my region of the Arava are also searching for that home. In the past few weeks, I have had the honor to be invited to teach a Bar-Bat Mitzvah class to 50 young underprivileged boys and girls in Eilat [45 minutes south of Yahel], and 17 families in Moshav Ein-Yahav [45 minutes north of Yahel] have invited me to study with them and their children the meaning of becoming Bar-Bat Mitzvah.
I drive in the Desert North and South and I meet those who are baderech-on their way. I try to bring them home to the tabernacle.
Rabbi Benjie Gruber made aliyah with his family when he was only five years old. He has a BA and a Masters in Jewish Philosophy from Hebrew University, and was ordained by Hebrew Union College. Benjie is one in a long line of rabbis; his grandfather, father and two brothers are all ordained. He now serves as the head rabbi at Kibbutz Yahel in the Arava region of southern Israel.