Saturday, March 1, 2014

Parashat Pekudei - Playing the Sims 3

            Shabbat Shalom. I have a little bit of an embarrassing confession for you all. I am 26, and I still love playing the Sims. Some Youth Group members know that we have Sims3 on the PlayStation at my home, but I don’t think even they know that I also have Sims3 – plus five expansion packs – for my pc. I’m not sure how the Sims Free Play or Sims Social app versions of the game may be different, but in the computer game, you can create your own people, design their look, and create relationships. Then you can create your own home, design the blueprints and decorate it to look however you want, especially if you know the money cheat code and money is no object. Once your family and home are completely made you can “start” playing (as though this act of creation doesn’t count as playing). I love the actual “playing” of Sims3, and often go through three generations of the same family before I get bored and want to start over. Many, however, have expressed supreme boredom with this part, saying they’ll play with a family for a few hours, maybe spread over a couple of days, but then they’ll go back and create a new family and house. The creative act is the fun part of the game for a lot of people.
            I remember a few years ago, my cousin was telling me about the family she had been babysitting, and the game that the kids were playing (first version the Sims), and she described the game as “playing G-d.” At the time, that seemed like a fair way to explain the Sims and a close enough approximation to my understanding of G-d. Let’s look at this week’s Torah portion, though, and we see a view of G-d that doesn’t fit the “Sims mold” so well. The past few weeks have been about the building of the Tabernacle, culminating in this week, when G-d finally settles in into this new Divine Home. G-d commands Moses to tell the people to bring forth anything they have that will be useful in building the Tabernacle. G-d appoints Bezalel and Ohaliab to be the head architects. G-d puts the creative act onto the people to build. G-d does not construct the perfect home for G-dself like a game of Sims. G-d appoints us, humans with free will and minds of our own, to create something for G-d. In the wilderness, in the Torah, it is the Tabernacle. Today, it is our community.
            We are not Sims. G-d may be watching, and G-d may be sending us messages, and there may be some grand Divine plan to the universe, but we are not being directly controlled by an unseen force like a person sitting and clicking away at the various templates on a computer game. We know this because if we were being so controlled, would the Israelite people have built and worshipped the golden calf and angered G-d, only a short time before building G-d this beautiful home? As I said last week, we are humans, each with our own unique skills, talents, needs, and interests. We each bring something important and specific to build the Tabernacle, to build our community. It is up to each of us to be ourselves, to work together to the best of our abilities, to bring our community to life, to have a beautiful space to dwell in, because there is no computer program making these decisions for us, building our houses and clicking “Go to School” or “Express Fondness” for us to make sure we do what we’re supposed to do.
            So I play the Sims a lot, maybe specifically because real life is so not the Sims. In the Sims, you can have complete control over the universe you create, and that is comforting. But the real universe would be boring if we could do that. Although it is sometimes hard to deal with the unknowable and the uncontrollability of life and community building, we know from this week’s Torah portion that that is what G-d wants of us. For us to deal with the unknown and uncontrollable, to create, to work together, to figure it out for ourselves as we go along. It is hard, but it is far more rewarding than a happy Sims family. May you all find the patience and self-confidence required to go out in life and deal with the unknown and uncontrollable, to create art, community, and holy spaces. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.

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