Tiles, Flooring, and God’s NAME

So we started the floor a little over a week ago.  At first we planned to make do with the floor that was there, just scrubbing it very well to get old paint and certainly the old dirt off of it.  We even had the youth help scrub it to get it cleaner – and for them to have a true sense of being part of the building.

Fortunately, one of our members recognized that a new floor would do so much for the sanctuary and social hall that she and her husband made a very generous donation to purchase the tile.  And like everything else that we have done that could possibly be done by members, we decided to lay the floor ourselves.  There was a moment, at the very beginning, where the realization that laying the floor tile meant bending over more than 2000 times (not counting the edges, corners, etc) to cover the main floor….

Being an optimist, I thought, well, if we could lay about 180-220 tiles each day, then in ten days (not counting Shabbat), we could have a new floor down.  That was the optimist in me.  Among other things, that did not count the time it would end up taking to get the tile TO the Temple.  Ahhhh, but that, too, is part of the journey.

There have been many goals along the way that have not been met and others that have.  As I write this blog, we are still waiting for the next 11 boxes of tile to be delivered – or perhaps a wild drive to pick them up somewhere north or south of Port Saint Lucie.  We have already emptied the local stores of this tile and even their staging warehouse.  I guess Temples are bigger than most everyday tiling projects….

Ah, yes, I remember that slightly envious moment when we were picking up one of the orders and I looked at the person next to us who was embarking on a remodeling project.  He had about a third of the tile that we had on our cart – and he was calling that a big project.  But we were committed to the project; we had started earlier that week.  The first order was being loaded and the next load was being ordered.  We would do that several more times before getting as close as we are now – and there is still more to order.

And that does not even count the cork, the carpet, and of course, the remainder of the painting.  Oy, what was I thinking?  Well, we did have some very good days where much more than 180 tiles were put in place.  And it is looking pretty.  And because we are laying it diagonally, there will be quite some cutting of the side pieces.

Yes, somewhere along the line, like after the very first day, we decided to lay all of the tile that does not need cutting – or at least most of the the main tile – first.  Then we would do the more tedious cutting and fitting around the edges.  Some of our neighbors, like the man who did marble tile work in Israel for over two years, or one of our members, like the man who once owned a hardware store, have remarked that we are doing the easy part.  We agree with them – we know that both from a logical standpoint and from the little bit of cutting we have done so far.

But we are working toward priorities – fix the funky uneven parts of the floor, and get the majority down as quickly as possible, especially in the places that get heavy foot traffic.  And it is working.  We have had Torah Yoga and Shema Yoga on the new floor twice so far, even though the edges are not yet done.  Of course, we have had Shabbat services, Hebrew School and Sunday Religious School on the new floor.  We want it in place (as in finished) for the Purim carnival this coming Sunday, the Purim Dinner & Show this Saturday evening, and of course, Lucie Purim Shabbat this Friday.  We hope to make it.

But that means all of the cutting, the rest of the floor repair (about three places to build up the floor – the high spots are leveled now) – and finishing the painting of the doors into the Sanctuary.  We do NOT expect to have the kitchen finished, just neat and organized hopefully.  There are two more walls to paint there.  The anteroom (aka green room) will be carpeted, and there are two doors to paint before that happens, so it may not be finished.  Then there is the bathroom, my office, and a few “little” areas.  My office will be the final project because it is now the storage room for much of what will go elsewhere once the painting and flooring are complete.

So the project becomes a cascade puzzle, with one piece following after another, each with special bits and pieces.  By Pesach (Passover), we hope to have it all done. So what does all of this have to do with God’s Name?  To answer that question, we need to look at what it takes to write a Sefer Torah – a Torah scroll.  —

It is a very sacred task to write a Torah scroll.  The scribe is expected to pray and then declare the holy purpose of writing the scroll.  As a test of the quill, the scribe writes the word “Amalek” on a piece of parchment, which he then blots out with scratches and perhaps by washing it away, to fulfill the requirement to blot out Amalek’s name (see Deut 25:17-19). The writing of God’s Name, however, is the most holy part of the writing.  Before writing God’s Name, the scribe must immerse in a mikvah, a ritual bath.  Because of this extra requirement, plus the requirement to make and extra prayer and declaration regarding the writing of God’s Name, some scribes leave a space for God’s Name in the writing and fill in several of these spaces at one concentrated time.

It is worth noting that we looked at the scroll we were reading this Shabbat and could tell with reasonable certainty that the scribe who penned that scroll did that exact process when that scroll was written.  Before we read the scroll most Shabbat mornings, I invite people to come look at the open scroll so that they can see up close what one looks like.  I expect that I will still do that when our Torah Cam is installed soon, because even with a Torah Cam, there is something about looking at the actual scroll that is so powerful.

SO….back to the floor.  Well, the sides and edges and all the tricky parts that are not done yet DO remind me of the process of writing a scroll.  Certainly, a floor is not holy, although it will make our congregation feel better and more complete.  And because we are the ones putting it down, our youth, our members, board members, and the rabbi, it IS part of our Torah, part of what makes our community so special.

There is a mitzvah that says each person must write (at least part of) a Sefer Torah, a Torah scroll.  That act binds a person to the larger Jewish community and links in to the ancient heritage that defines us as a people.  Perhaps laying a tile or three helps bind our youth and our members in a very special way.  When we cut those edge tiles, we will need to remember that even laying a tile floor can be a holy mitzvah, the mitzvah of being a powerful part of our Jewish community, being part of the foundation of OUR congregation.

So, if YOU want to lay a tile or two, you will need to contact the rabbi this week, while we finish the sanctuary and social hall (and maybe the gift shop).  There may well be later opportunities to do some of the kitchen and other rooms, but please let me know, so I can contact you when we are doing it.  In fact, as I write this, I will make the commitment to work with you to find a time that will allow you to be a part of it.  It is not writing God’s Name in a scroll, but it is helping and contributing to our congregation.

Gam zeh Kadosh – This, TOO, is holy.  That very phrase was part of the Yoga meditation this past Shabbat……..

Thanks for reading!

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