Vayakhel-Pekudei - Weekly Torah Portion
“Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which the Lord has commanded, saying, ‘Take from among you a contribution to the Lord; whoever is of a willing heart is to bring it as the Lord’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze, and violet, purple, and scarlet material, fine linen, goats’ hair, and rams’ skins dyed red, and fine leather, and acacia wood, and oil for lighting, and spices for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense”. This Shabbat we read two portions and complete the reading from the book of Exodus. It is also the Shabbat HaChodesh, the Shabbat before the first day of the month of Nissan that will happen this coming Sunday. It is therefore appropriate to begin my words by calling you to make your contributions to the Israel Reform Movement “Keren BeKavod”, that is now having a drive to raise funds for providing families of needs, from all walks of Israel’s society, during this period of festivals. It is simple, just call 1-700-50-19-19 or 054-779-1191 and make your pledge. The cost of a food parcel for a family is 180 New Israeli Sheqels. The fund will distribute gift cards, food parcels, and toys to hundreds of families that have been hard hit by the coronavirus. There is no need to bring “gold, silver, and bronze” nor collect “violet, purple, and scarlet material, fine linen, goats’ hair, and rams’ skins dyed red”. A short call and you have helped a family, or two, or more. Every gift, large or small, shall be all heartedly appreciated.
This Shabbat, The Shabbat of the Month, we read from a special Haftarah from the words of the prophet Ezekiel who also makes reference in his words about making contributions, “All the people of the land shall give to this offering for the prince in Israel. And it shall be the prince’s part to provide the burnt offerings, the grain offerings, and the drink offerings, at the feasts, on the new moons, and on the Sabbaths, at all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel”. Everyone has to give but the leaders have a special obligation to be doing so. It is easy to demand from others to make such gestures of good will but it is not always easy to follow our own advice, especially when in leadership position. There is always the excuse that the leader makes a contribution by the very dedication of his or her time to public matters, which is truly demanding and often unrewarding. Nevertheless, the prophet is there to remind the leaders that they have that extra burden of doing that much more.
The offerings are also meant to connect between people, bond the different tribes that make us a People. Despite the difference, regardless of the political divides, irrespective of that which seems to us odd or peculiar in the other. It is the deep understanding that by far we have more in common than that which separates us, there is more that is shared than is different. Not that it is easy to see all of that when leaders try the opposite of uniting us as that better serves their political ambitions. It may seem worthwhile in the short-term however it opens a rift, a chasm, hate and weakness for the long-term. Here, a winning side may easily end up finding that it has actually lost. Just recently Israel’s prime-minister did just that, quoted in the Jerusalem Post as of the Reform and Conservative conversions, as a result of the supreme court’s decision, will cause an undesirable immigration influx. This is after fifteen years in court, during the last twelve of which no other than himself being at the helm. He should have known better not to do so.
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, an orthodox rabbi, trying to explain why Reform conversions are not to be accepted said that “The Halacha is given to Halacha scholars only, and they are the ones who determine who is a Jew according to the Halacha and what is an accredited conversion. As it was born from a culture of debate, there are many differences of opinion on the details of a conversion according to the Halacha, however, all of these positions are far from anything that is done by the other streams claiming to convert.” He in fact admits that that even within the Halacha of today there are different ways of thinking. One may wish to add that the system he promotes is far from being the perfect establishment that one may think he implies. In fact, he continues to argue, “what needs to be done today? The debate now is within the public sphere – not the legal field. It is not the state that will make people prefer a conversion according to the Halacha, rather it will be Halachic Judaism. If we shall be wise enough to be a magnet that draws towards it those who live amongst us to adopt our ways, the ways of a Judaism loyal to the covenant of mitzvot and convert therewith; if we shall be wise enough to open the doors of our courts for conversion, allow municipal rabbis to officiate in conversions, and recognize additional Halachic conversion possibilities, - maybe a failure will become a success, and it will be shown that even without the backing of the state ‘words of truth’ will prevail – and that the Jewish identity of the country will be strengthened because of the ‘free market’ approach.” One thing is for sure, thousands upon thousands have shown that they prefer a different way, distancing themselves from the ways of the chief rabbinate of Israel. They further want the state to stop mandating these issues. It was not so in the past, should not be so now, and certainly should not continue into the future.
Nevertheless, the more important thing to remind today is the act of donations. When the Mishkan was built, “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 voluntary offering to the Lord.” With no rift, though there may have been arguments, and with a joint devotion to a common cause it is possible to change the realities of today, and of tomorrow. Please be so kind to consider making a donation also to the Movement’s Keren BeKavod.
Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov and wishes for Good Health.
Reuven Marko, 12 March 2021, 29 Adar, 5781