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Creating Communities in the Image of G-d

D'var Torah Vayakhel February, 2022 - Thoughts on Community

וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה אֶת־כָּל־עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּה ה' לַעֲשׂת אֹתָם.

“And Moses assembled the entire community of Bnai Yisrael …” (Shemot 35:1)

This pasuk details a fact, that Moshe congregated the nation together to give instructions regarding Shabbat and the Mishkan; but there is something about this recorded moment that feels odd to me. Conventional wisdom suggests that this convocation occurred on Tishrei 11, the day after Moshe returned from Mount Sinai with the second set of Ten Commandment tablets. Seems to me that there should have been a “buzz” in the air, with curiosity and excitement. Who wasn’t there who needed to be summoned, or invited, or cajoled to attend?

I would like to propose that the answer to that question could be the same answer to the same question that could be asked here today. Who is missing in our times when a Jewish community comes together for important milestone occasions and moments?

  • Do some people feel like outsiders because of personal religious choices not consistent with community expectations? 
  • Did any surviving instigators of the golden calf feel ready to step forward in response to Moshe’s call? Maybe, and maybe not.
  • Who rejects organized religion because it is perceived to be long on expectations and maybe short on delivery? Or because it is too choreographed and not spontaneous enough?
  • Who is unable to come forward without assistance - physical or emotional, and who gets inadvertently overlooked or left behind in the excitement?

It is a reality for all communities that there will always be people who perceive of themselves as being outsiders; and at some level, maybe they are. Moshe, however, was not content to allow such gaps in the community to persist without some efforts are remediation.

The setting of the parsha was after the golden calf, receipt of the second set of tablets, and after project of the Mishkan was presented as a national opportunity.

Bringing his community back together, as it was at the revelation of the Ten Commandments, was surely not as easy as saying “let’s do it”, but Moshe set doing so as a priority.

So too for all generations. There are goals and agendas that are worthy and achievable, but making sure that we are united and feel safe within our community is a check that can never happen too often.

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Sat, September 24 2022 28 Elul 5782