We are in a time of renaissance in and around Buffalo. New buildings are popping up all over and with them the clamor of construction equipment. In Israel, which has been in a state of perpetual growth since its founding in 1948, the joke goes: “what is Israel’s national bird?” The answer: “a crane.” Not the bird, of course, but the massive motor driven vehicles that are at the epicenter in the creation of any tall building. The result of all the cranes is noise pollution, traffic, general chaos, and, ultimately joy.
To understand one needs look no further than this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, which begins a five-week long slog through the construction of the tabernacle, a traveling worship space meant to be used as the Israelites traversed the wilderness. The tabernacle will take up much of the people’s time, resources and attention, while serving no strategic military purpose, and if anything putting them in greater danger of being attacked by invading armies.
So why do it at all?
In turns out, for human beings buildings of any kind are signs of life and vitality. We, in Buffalo, know what it means to go through a period where nothing is happening at all. It saps your will. It makes your entire community feel stagnant. Yes, cranes are not actually the national bird of Israel – hoopies are – but they are the instrument that allows the economy to soar. So try not to be annoyed by the latest detour on the way to work, feel pride instead that we, like human societies from time immemorial, are building joy one construction site to the next.