I’m sitting at the counter of the cafe my girlfriend* works at, reading Parshat Terumah. Between serving customers, she looks over and says, “OK Patrick, read the Torah to me.”
The first line of the Parshat is G-d asking for gifts of gold, silver, copper, tanned skins, fine jewels and various other just-gotta-have-it Biblical sundries. She exclaims, “Wow, G-d’s being really dick, asking for gifts like that.”
And you know what, I gotta side with her on that one. Especially when G-d asks for dolphin skin**. I can’t even look at a can of tuna without feeling remorse (and thinking about Jessica Simpson).
A few moments later I tell her my favorite part of the Parshat: the construction of the ark. Being a former history major and archeology buff, she gets a certain glee, “the Indiana Jones ark!”
She turns around and rushes to the espresso machine to pump out another marvelous caffeine miracle, while encouraging me to go find the ark in Ethiopia and bring it back to her as a Valentines gift.
We do this back-and-forth a lot at her place of work. The constant flow of mocha-cafe-double-whip-diabetic-coma-juice and free wifi really gets my blood flowing, not to mention more time with her. But it’s also a sacrifice: she goes to work at 6:30AM and is drop-dead asleep by 9PM. I’m a night owl, barely closing my eyes around 1AM.
But I suck it up and go to bed early when I know she’s opening, because I feel a certain holiness to being there. The lights, the energy, the spirit of the coffee shop gives me what I need to accomplish my morning writing goals.
I know for a fact that opening that coffee shop costs a ton of money (my parents were in the restaurant business their entire lives). I’m sure that the Tabernacle, even with all its splendor, costs less than the construction, rent, utilities, staffing, food, dry goods, taxes and business services that this Mom and Pop coffee bar has. But if her boss had not put those resources into the business, it would not be able to serve its purpose. It’s an investment, and it’s worth it.
Bottom line: spirituality, like great coffee and great relationships, requires serious investment, and going the extra step. This is the spirit of Parshat Terumah.
*Dear Girlfriend, you have every right to hate my guts after reading this. I accept full responsibility, and promise to make it up to you, somehow.
**It may not have been dolphin, but scholars aren’t quite sure how to translate it. Either way, it’s really gross.