Vayak'heil-P'kudei - weekly Torah portion

On this Shabbat we read two portions of the Torah and with that conclude the reading of the book of Exodus. From our reading we learn, among others, about the preparations for the building of the Mishkan. Moses requests, “This is the thing which the Lord has commanded ‘Take from among you a contribution to the Lord; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the Lord’s contribution’” and continues with the specifics of that which is to be brought in so that the work can commence. After some detail, it is said, “Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel departed from Moses’ presence. Everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the Lord’s contribution for the work of the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments. Certainly an uplifting response, an entire People is filled with a spirit of generosity and provides all that is necessary to build the Mishkan.

The Reform Movement’s march with Torah scrolls to the Western Wall

The description provides even more detail and emphasis that this spirit included the entire congregation and not only a portion of them. We find, “Then all whose hearts moved them, both men and women, came and brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and bracelets, all articles of gold; so did every man who presented an offering of gold to the Lord… All the skilled women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun, in blue and purple and scarlet material and in fine linen. 26 All the women whose heart stirred with a skill spun the goats’ hair… all the men and women, whose heart moved them to bring material for all the work, which the Lord had commanded through Moses to be done, brought a freewill offering to the Lord.” No separations or segregations, no arrogance or patronizing, all are involved in the erection of the Mishkan, a deed that comes from the heart and is performed all heartedly.

On Sunday, two weeks ago, the visit of the URJ Mission 2017 to Israel, led by the URJ president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, and chair, Daryl Messinger, ended. Together with some thirty members of the URJ board and professional team, and in cooperation with IMPJ, the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, our partners visited in many places including our newer congregations for a Friday service and dinner, a meeting at Mishkenot Ruth with the IMPJ board, with Israel President Mr. Rivlin at his presidential mishkan, with members of Knesset at their Mishkan, and with premier Netanyahu. Both men and women participated in all these meetings making the meetings meaningful and successful in each of those dwellings, each Mishkan.

Still, while the Torah portions of this week are based on equality, this delegation had to once more stress to those that it met with its expectation to end the discrimination against the non-orthodox movements in Israel. Unfortunately, instead of the government promoting equality of opportunity and funding, the partisan politics deals mostly with separatism and factionalism. Instead of embracing those who are different, it simply attempts to crush them aside. The appointment of Minister Hanegbi to address the issue was welcomed, however, we clearly demanded to complete this saga satisfactorily. We cannot accept the prime minister’s advisors’ complaints that our vocal insistence to solve the issue of the Kotel and the monthly prayers there make it more difficult to find a solution. The exact opposite is true. Without our clear and forceful approach not only the issue of the Kotel would not have been dealt with but also many other issues of importance to the Movement. It is unacceptable that we are received with flattering language at the nicest of the dwellings (Mishkanim) of the State of Israel but still remain far from receiving the equal rights, no more no less than other of Israel’s citizens.

When the Israelites called upon to carry the burden equally with others, just as is described in the building of the Mishkan, that opportunity is provided on an equal basis. Everyone, men and women could be part of that endeavor. This equality did not require each to give the same but gave everyone an opportunity to give and participate. This is true for us today too and is true in many aspects of our lives. It requires us to judge people for what they are and not from the narrow views of bigotry. We shall continue to demand and insist that all our rights be given to us, and we shall not forget that there is also an obligation that comes bundled with such demand. It is the obligation to give, to donate, to allow others to participate in the building of a Mishkan from the fragments of fabric that build us as a society. Remember the Movement’s Keren Bekavod, your own congregations’ social justice endeavors, and other frameworks that are dear and near to you. As Passover nears remember, “Take from among you a contribution to the Lord; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the Lord’s contribution”.

Shabbat Shalom and wishes for a Khodesh Tov.

Reuven Marko, 24 March 2017, 27 Adar, 5777

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