Moses is commanded, “Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution.” Then there appears a lengthy list of items that should be brought as donations. These include, “gold, silver and bronze, blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, rams’ skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece.” Certainly an impressive list of items for a People who have hastily left Egypt and had them with them in the desert. This contribution has to serve a very specific cause, “construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”
On the month of Tishrei of the year 7660, September-October 1899, the Poet Haim Nachman Bialik wrote his poem “To the Nation’s Volunteers” (free translation): “Aid the Nation! Aid the Nation! / How? Do not ask – in any way! / With whom? Do not check – every heart that moves! / Those who’s Nation’s despair has touched-- / Include them in our camp, let us not part!” His words echo from the portion of the Torah we read this week. There is a difference though. While what we read from the Torah deal with material contribution, those which can be regained by our work, our commerce, or innovation, and that can even improve and get better or more. The volunteers share something entirely different which is their precious time, something which cannot be regained, which can never be reconstructed.
Yesterday the Israel Reform Movement had a get together of the chairs of its congregations. Volunteers who shared with us their precious time for the sole purpose of advancing the cause of the Reform Movement in Israel. The studied on ways to improve the management of their NGOs, they spent time discussing with our professionals information regarding education, fund raising, homes for inclusion and participation in Reform congregations for people with developmental disabilities and the ways we deliver our messages in Israel. They also took the time to speak to some members of our board that shared with them their experiences from our pre-military Mekhina, the Israel Reform Action Center (IRAC), the financial management of the Movement and the ways that congregations are developed. We then continued to discuss one item out of many that comprise the 2025 Strategic Plan of the IMPJ. We dived into the particular topic of our plans regarding our youth and young adults as well as the way we are going to measure that our goals have been accomplished.
It is certainly a daunting challenge. Sometimes we just have to work harder. In his poem Bialik continues and says (again my free translation), “If windy mountains pile upon us-- / The sparks have not extinguished, to gone; / From the windy mountains we shall carve a flame, / from a crevice – thousands of sapphires / … Alas, lets join together in this humongous task!” Sometimes the job seems to us and undoable as Bialik suggest, in his beautiful language, that we ought not to despair. At the toughest, coldest and most exposed places it is possible to rekindle the flame, to build, to create. He call upon us all from one-hundred-and-twenty years ago not to give up, and join together to harness the task. It is a huge task but it is not meant for anyone else but for us. We have to do this work, without despondency, without fear and with great belief in our ultimate success.
Reuven Marko, 8 February 2019, 4 Adar Aleph, 5779