Saturday, March 17, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Vayakel/Pekudei/Shabbat HaChodesh (the most successful synagogue appeal ever)

As my synagogue is beginning a campaign to raise a staggering $25 million to renovate the main sanctuary, two social halls, the school buildings, and the parking lot I find these Torah Portions very ironic. Moses is told by God to make an appeal to the "wise-hearted" people to bring in donations to build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle which will serve as a portable precursor to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the only time in history, the people bring TOO much and Moses is told to refuse any more donations. If only my synagogue had that tzurus...

But wait! Where did all of the gold, silver, precious stones, and fabrics come from? Weren't all of the spoils of Egypt destroyed in the account of the Golden Calf? Not exactly... While the men did donate all of their bling to the the construction of the baal idol, their wives refused. Much like their role in the celebration of crossing the Sea of Reeds, the women come into their own as the heroines in the story of the building of the Mishkan. Go Sisterhood!

Meanwhile two men are called out by name by God to undertake the daunting task of being the architects of this massive and holy building project: Betzalel ben Uri of the tribe of Judah and Oholiab ben Achisamach of the tribe of Dan serving as Chief and Assistant architects respectfully (also notably representing the largest and smallest tribes respectfully). I am fascinated by midrash that indicates that Moses has no idea how to visualize any of the components of the Mishkan and so God sends him fiery visions of each vessel but Betzalel and Oholiab don't need any assistance to form the objects. The beauty is that it takes a village. Even Moses cannot be self reliant. As a future rabbi I know I will not have all the answers, even with an Ivy League diploma. I will seek a doctor for medical stuff and a lawyer for civil law stuff. People can come to me for some of that old time religion, the spiritual stuff, but I will go to others for the subjects in which I don't specialize.

Meanwhile the special maftir. Biblically this next week we are supposed to celebrate the New Year in Judaism. I like the idea of spring being the beginning of a year because it indicates rebirth. Fall may be more appropriate for Rosh Hashannah because it involves the restarting of the agricultural cycle, but spring is the apex (except here in SoCal where the fruit trees have been in bloom for months and we have our fig growing season in the middle of the fall). Why do you think the rabbis call the mitzvah here "It shall be the first of months for you" as the most logical to begin the Torah?

Plus I love not having to say Tachanun for a month...

Shabbat HaChodesh Shalom!

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