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Seeking to Repair the Brokenness that Exists in our World

03/14/2024 12:04:48 PM


Rabbi Bryan Wexler

In this week’s Torah portion, Pekudei, the construction of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) is finally completed. We then read that Moses “took the Tablets and placed it in the Ark,” (Exodus 40:20). It is interesting to note that the word used for tablets in the verse “edut” is in the plural.  From this observation, the Talmud explains: “the tablets as well as the broken pieces of the tablets were placed in the Ark together,” (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra 14b).  Remember when Moses returned to the children of Israel, carrying the first tablets with the Ten Commandments? He was so outraged by the idolatry of the Golden Calf, that he shattered the tablets on the ground. After the people had repented of their sin, Moses returned to the peak of the Mountain, where God presented a second pair of tablets.

But why would Moses place the broken set of tablets in the Ark next to the new, intact set of tablets?  One answer is that it highlights the brokenness in our lives.  Similar to under the huppah at a wedding when we smash a glass to remind us that even in the happiest of moments there is brokenness in our world, placing the broken tablets in the Ark with the whole ones, served as a reminder to the Israelites, and in turn, to us, that even in the midst of feeling whole, we must remember that there is much work to be done.  One of our greatest responsibilities is to seek to repair the brokenness that exists in our world and our lives. 

As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, of blessed memory, wrote based on a central tenant of Kabbalah: “The world is a broken place, literally a broken vessel, and our human task is to put those fragments together — to repair the brokenness,” (To Heal A Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility).  I have been thinking about this quote as well as the image of the broken tablets and whole tablets in the ark together since I returned from my recent trip to Israel.  On October 7th, life in Israel was shattered. The devastation, destruction, and loss are immense.  Every Israeli has in some way been affected by the October 7th attacks and subsequent war in Gaza. On my trip a few weeks ago to Israel, I bore witness to the pain and the brokenness.  As hard as that was, I also simultaneously found myself inspired by the hope and perseverance of our brothers and sisters.  I saw the broken and the whole intertwined and dwelling together.  This Saturday morning, during our Shabbat morning service I will share some of these stories as I reflect on my trip; stories of heartbreak and pain and stories of healing and hope.  I hope you will join us at TBS this Shabbat.

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784