Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei 5777

By: Dr. Bill Sutker

In today’s parshah, Moses addresses the whole Israelite community for the first time since his dramatic return from Mount Sinai. Moses gathers the people of Israel and repeats to them all the things God has told him in the previous three parshahs. In this parshah, first, there is the commandment to keep Sabbath. Second, is God’s command to donate materials for the construction of the Mishkan. As soon as Moses finished talking, the people want to bring things to donate to the Mishkan. The people brought their gifts at dawn’s first light, so no one could see them, to emphasize that they were contributing out of love for God, with no wish to be recognized for it. We read that both men and women donated for the construction of the Mishkan. Everyone participated in its construction. It didn’t matter if they were rich or poor. It didn’t matter which tribe they were from. Everyone gave according to their ability, and each participated with the talents God gave them. There were actually too many donations, and for the first and probably only time in fundraising history, the Jewish people are told to refrain from bringing additional contributions. I don’t remember Federation calling me to say: “Thanks, Bill for your generous pledge but we don’t need your money right now.”

There is only the one brief mention of Shabbat during Moses’speech. According to Rashi, Moses prefaces his speech about the Mishkan with a warning about Shabbat in order to remind the Israelites that the Mishkan does not supersede Shabbat. The construction of the Mishkan has traditionally been regarded as an illustration of what we should not do on Shabbat. Indeed, the rabbis derive the 39 prohibited actions on Shabbat directly from the 39 acts of labor involved in the creation of the Mishkan.

The Mishkan was built to serve as the focal point of religious life for the Jewish nation. The Mishkan is the means by which God becomes present in the very center of the Israelite community and in the hearts of the Israelites.

Parshahs Vayakhel and Pekudei, are combined this year. What seems paradocial is that Vayakhel means “community”, but content of this Parshah is the value of individuality. Pekudei means” individuality” but its content is the advantage in union and integration, that is, community.
Moses’ act in Vayakhel is what the Kabbalists called tikkun: a restoration, and making good again, the redemption of a past misdemeanor. Moses orchestrates the people for good, as they had once been assembled for bad.
At a deeper level, though, the opening verse of the Sedra alerts us to the nature of community Judaism. In classical Hebrew, there are three different words for community: edah, tzibbur, and kehillah; and they signify different kinds of association.
The people who constitute an edah have a strong sense of collective identity. They have witnessed the same things. They share the same purpose. It can be bad as well as good. An edah is a community of like-minded people. The word emphasizes strong identity. It is a group whose members have much in common.
By contrast, the word tzibbur is a different kind of community. To understand the concept of tzibbur, think of a group of people praying at the Kotel. They may not know each other. They may never meet again. But for the moment, they happen to be ten people in the same place at the same time, and thus constitute a minyan for prayer. A tzibbur is a community in the minimalist sense, a mere aggregate, formed by numbers rather than any sense of identity. A tzibbur is a group whose members have nothing in common except that at a certain point they find themselves together, and thus constitute” public” for prayer or any other command which requires a minyan.
A kehillah is different from the other two kinds of community. Its members are different from one another. In that sense, it is like a tzibbur. But they are orchestrated together for a collective undertaking – one that involves itself in making a distinctive contribution. The beauty of a kehillah is that when it is driven by constructive purpose, it gathers together the distinct and separate contributions of many individuals, so each can say, “I helped to make this.” That is why, by assembling the people on this occasion, Moses emphasizes that each has something different to give.
Moses was able to turn the kehillah, with all its diversity, into an edah, with its singleness of purpose, while preserving the diversity of the gifts they brought to God.

The greatness of the Mishkan was that it was a collective achievement – one in which not everyone did the same thing. Each gave a different thing. Each contribution was valued – and therefore, each participant felt valued. Vayakhel was Moses ability to forge out of the dissolution of the people, a new and genuine kehillah, and was one of his greatest achievements.

What Moses had to do after the Golden calf was turn the Israelites to a kehillah, a community.

Moses began by reminding people of the laws of Shabbat. Then he instructed them to build the Mishkan. Why these two commands rather than any others? Because Shabbat and Mishkan are the two most powerful ways of building a sense of community. The best way of turning a diverse, disconnected group into a team is to get them to build something together; hence, the Mishkan. The best way of strengthening relationships is to set aside dedicated time when we focus not on the pursuit of individual self-interest but on the things we share, by praying together, studying Torah together and celebrating together: in other words, Shabbat. Shabbat and the Mishkan were the two great community building experiences of the Israelites in the desert.
More than this, in Judaism, community is essential to the spiritual life. Our holiest prayers require a minyan. When we celebrate or mourn, we do so as a community. Even when we confess, we do so together.
Author and educator Ron Wolfson has said:” I’m worried about the Jewish future, and I’m really worried about the future of Jewish institutions.”
Wolfson wrote that, the foundational principles of Judaism are based on relationships.
We do not live our lives in isolation; we share our lives with one another, with family, friends, the Jewish world, the larger world, and ultimately with God.
Relational Judaism is not a new idea, but it is, perhaps, one that needed refreshing. It is a reminder that we should spend time with people, not just our Facebook friends – to have social lives, not just” social networks”, to engage with our neighbors and our fellow Jews as an investment in the survival of Judaism. Jewish families cannot live in isolation. To live a full Jewish life requires engagement with other Jews, a Jewish community.

Every one of us is necessary to ensure success. We are all different. We all have different abilities, different talents and different circumstances. We know we can do it, because we’ve done it once before when we built the Mishkan. The main thing is that we work together, that we do it right. Small details matter. As in every project, it is not complete until each person does his or her part, and until the finishing touches have been completed.
Each and every one of us, on some level, all want to change the world. But sometimes we feel that compared to others, our contributions are not as significant. But the exact opposite is true. This is because for in order for someone else to help, they almost always depend upon other people doing their part. We must all contribute in the way that God enabled and empowered us to do so. If we don’t, it literally prevents others from doing their part. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your contribution isn’t going to make a difference. Just like in the days of the Mishkan you have the responsibility to contribute in relation to your ability to strengthen the Jewish community and our own Kehillah

Shabbat Shalom
Beatles Parody
Hey Jude, don’t be afraid:
It seems like Yesterday that you all had a great Revolution. In My Life, I was never so angry. I went back to Mount Sinai and said to God: “ Help, I need somebody. God, too, was also very upset. As I addressed God, I felt like the Fool on the Hill, a real Nowhere Man. I said to him: “My Sweet Lord, please forgive them. We Can Work it Out. The Israelites and I Should Have Known Better.” God said: “ Tell Me Why” they did it but I was at a loss for an adequate explanation. But, Do You Want to Know a Secret? He forgave you because He/She Loves You, yeah, yeah, yeah and he said: “Ok, Let it Be.” So, now I Feel Fine and I hope you do as well. It is time to Get Back to our mission. So, Please, Please Me and believe in the Lord.

I Want to Tell You a message From Me to You. I Need You to Come Together right now. It will be A Long and Winding Road. Don’t Let Me Down. You cannot work Eight Days a Week. You must rest on Shabbat. God is Here, There and Everywhere. It is time to pray for forgiveness and tell God: “ I Got to Get You into My Life.” I was lost Till There Was You. I Need You.

When a new day dawns and Here Comes the Sun, it will be the time to get to work and build a great Mishkan. If we work together as a community and put in A Hard Day’s Night, Imagine what we can accomplish.

And while Tomorrow Never Knows, I’ve Got A Feeling we can accomplish great things With a Little Help From My Friends. All You Need is Love and cooperation, with each person doing his or her job, All I’ve Got to Do is to continue to lead you on this Magical Mystery Tour through the desert to the promised land.