Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
In life, everyone needs hope, and certain objects and symbols can help us continue to hope. In this week's Torah portion of Terumah, we are told about the building of the Mishkan (portable sanctuary) from acacia trees. Our sages tell us that Ya'akov Avinu brought these trees with him when he went down to Egypt and planted them there. He did this so that, in the future, the children of Israel would have boards with which to build the Mishkan. Ya'akov sought to console the children of Israel in this way. Throughout the long years of slavery, each time they saw the trees they would be reminded of their forefather Ya'akov and God's promise that they would someday leave Egypt. In other words, in addition to glorious thoughts about their future, people need to see something tangible they can look at everyday to sustain them and give them hope.
This is not a story only about the past, but a story for our own time as well. Today, the second of Adar, is the anniversary of the release of *Natan Sharansky* from imprisonment in Soviet Russia. 36 years ago, the most famous prisoner of Zion, who survived for years under extremely difficult circumstances, including solitary confinement, finally came home to Israel. Sharansky became an inspiration for all those struggling to be free.
When asked what gave him the strength to endure, he once replied: "A small book of Psalms that was always with me. I read it day and night." Even in his positions as chairman of the Jewish Agency and as a government minister, he continued to keep his little book of Psalms in his pocket. When I asked him in an interview if he carried his book of Psalms everywhere, he answered: "No, I don't carry it; it carries me."