Pekudey - weekly Torah portion

“This is the number of the things for the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the testimony, as they were numbered according to the command of Moses”. Which means that now, as the work on the tabernacle has been completed Moses stands before the people and provides a detailed account what has happened with each of the items provided for the building of the structure and its content. Moses understand that despite of his stature as the one who comes before God, he still has an earthly responsibility of accounting to the Israelites. As a leader of the people he feels that he must provide the most detailed account to ensure that each item and each article is transparently accounted for before the people.

The tabernacle, undoubtedly a stunning place, and well equipped, is not owned by Moses or his family or his tribe. It belongs to the people and was built for the people. It belongs to each and every one regardless of the amount actually contributed by each individual. The entire tabernacle is the property of all of the Israelites. It is from that fact that the duty to provide the report to the donors stems from. It seems that nowadays too many elected officials who have forgotten this basic rule of government. The fact that they represent the public, that they were elected to do for the public, does not mean that they are exempt from providing to the public a detailed report of their actions. It goes even beyond that – when the public contributes then the expenditure has to be on public affairs and certainly not for the purpose of enriching one or another elected official. The elected official must completely separate between what is private and that which is public, and if Moses does not see fit to relieve himself from this basic rule of conduct, it seems that the same rule should also be applicable upon elected officials today.

There is yet another message here and this is that the tabernacle belongs to everyone. It is not detached from the people but is an integral part of them. All of them. Unfortunately, these days, especially during the elections period, there are some who find it appropriate to incite one group of people against another group. Those who think that through some smart slogans they will be able to show that some part of the nation is less worthy or less fit to walk into the tabernacle. Such a despicable attempt has been made in the past few days by a group that attempt to appropriate the name “vision”. One of their visions is that the Reform Movement is trying to conquer the Western Wall, the Kotel, and that they need to fight to return it to what they refer to as its “normal” state. Nonetheless there is nothing less normal than a Jew not being able to practice their religion in the way that they are accustomed to. There is nothing more shameful and wicked than forgetting to provide account for private use by a small group of our people of something that rightfully belongs to all of us. Let it be said that those who think that the Reform Movement, together with our friends to the struggle, wish to take over the Kotel for our sole use is wrong. This is not our path, it is not in out thoughts, it is not our intent, and they know that well. The Kotel belongs to us all, Haredi, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Secular Jews alike, all should be respected and all should respect. Many already understand this, some still need to be explained, with others it will continue to be a struggle until full success is achieved.

The fears of those who have already been driven out of the Jewish leadership position in the USA in favor of the Reform Movement, are certainly understandable. They likely see what history entails and surely comprehends what is going to happen in Israel too. The direction is pluralistic, that embraces and accepts, and in which the Reform Movement will play an ever increasing part in the discourse. There are some who do not like this at all and it is in that context that we need to understand the defaming bill board that stated “A Reform grandfather” = “An assimilating father” = “A gentile grandchild”. So for them I can proudly respond to this utter nonsense that my father, one of the founders of the Reform congregation in Netanya, was a Reform Jew and a Reform great grandparent, I, now that chair of the Israel Reform Movement, am also a Reform grandfather, with a son and grandson-great grandson both of whom are Jewish – four generations in one family. No stupid and contemptuous bill board will change this simple fact.

Our Movement has its challenges, some here in Israel, others have to do with the need to further strengthen our ties with our sisters and brothers who live outside of Israel. Our era of struggles is far from being over and as we get closer to it the more viscous and venomous these attacks will be. However we must remember, that despite the fact that the road is long and the way is demanding, we are brothers and sisters. Most of them, Haredi, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and secular do believe in live and let live. They do believe in loving and accepting the other, live together and work together, and will increase the level of cooperation as time goes by, despite all of the efforts of those who do not want to embrace change. Because eventually “the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.”

Shabbat Shalom.

Reuven Marko, 8 March 2019, 2 Adar Beth, 5779

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