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How Community Sustains US

03/07/2024 09:40:31 AM


Rabbi Micah Peltz

This Shabbat we read Parashat Vayakhel.  Vayakhel contains the root kahal, which means community.  The portion opens with Moshe gathering the whole community together to give them the final instructions for the building of the mishkan.  The 13th-century commentator Ramban says that Moshe called the entire community, men, women, and children, together because all of them had volunteered to help in the work of building this portable sanctuary. He notes that this gathering takes place shortly after the sin of the golden calf, which was in last week’s Torah portion.  This gives the gathering even more significance.  After such a traumatic event, the people needed to be together.  Ramban’s commentary teaches us two important lessons about what it means to be a member of a community.  The first is that the more you put into a community, the more you get out of the community.  Each Israelite donated time, efforts, and resources for the common good.  This gave each of them a sense of ownership over the mishkan and the religious community that it represents.  By working together, each with our own abilities, we can create something greater than we could accomplish on our own.  The second idea about community that Ramban brings is the importance of being there for each other during good times and bad.  After the golden calf, Moshe rallies the people back together.  He wishes to reassert that feeling of community that has been challenged. This second idea about community resonates strongly with me today.  We are living at a time when the Jewish people, our people, are facing some very difficult challenges.  Rising antisemitism in America on the right and the left have even led some to ask if this is the end of the golden age for Jews in America.  See, for example, Franklin Foer’s important yet disturbing piece in The Atlantic.  And Israel, of course, continues to face challenges from Hamas and some in the international community who want to hold it to a different standard and deny the severity of the atrocities Hamas committed on October 7 and continues to commit against Israel and their own people. One of the most important ways we confront these challenges is found in Moshe’s example when he brings the people together after the golden calf.  Now is a time for community, and to stand together, with our brothers and sisters in Israel and Jews around the world.  We have an opportunity to do this this Shabbat as we welcome two new friends from Israel.    Our TBS Israel Mission visited the displaced members of Kibbutz Re'im in their temporary housing in Tel Aviv.  While there, we met Bubu and Daniel.  Bubu was at the Kibbutz on October 7 and helped fight off many Hamas terrorists.  Daniel, Bubu's best friend who lives in Tel Aviv, decided that he wanted to help Bubu and the 24 communities attacked by Hamas.  Together they created Project 24.  They have done some remarkable work to bring normalcy into people's lives in a way that impacts not only the receiver but the giver too.  After we met them in Israel and heard their story, we immediately invited them to come and share at TBS. After kiddush, around 1pm, they will speak about Project 24 in the Rose Chapel/Jenofsky Beit Midrash, where we will also livestream their presentation.  I hope that you will be able to join us and hear about this one way that we can bring our people together to help support and care for one another.  This is what it means to be part of a kahal, a community, and what has sustained in in the past, and will continue to sustain us today.

Shabbat Shalom

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784