Is the Torah itself protesting against this judicial reform?
Provocative title, admittedly, and I wish to imply no disrespect by it.
However, it seems over the last few weeks the Torah is not only providing a running critique of Jewish disunity over this judicial reform from parsha to parsha, but also that the critique is getting more forceful and urgent with every passing week.
What do I mean by this?
This week is a joint parshah – Vayakhel-Pekudei. The message from the Torah in this week’s joint parshah seems to be found, not through interpreting implicit messages embedded in the middle of the text, but in a black and white plain ‘pshat’ reading of the first paragraph of each of the two parshiot, and even in the very names themselves: Vayakhel and Pekudei.
Vayakhel – to give the instructions on building the mishkan in which Hashem’s Divine Presence would rest as it accompanied the Bnei Yisrael on their journeys to Eretz Yisrael, the first paragraph of Parshat Vayakhel commences: ‘Moshe assembled the whole community of the children of Israel…’
The emphasis here is on the whole community, not just a part of it. Not just the Levites. Not just the elders. Not just the tribal chiefs. Not just the men (who had already been assembled the previous day and had since dispersed, according to the Ramban). Not even just those that Hashem refers to as the ‘wise-hearted’ among them, men and women, who would then go on to do the actual building work.
To build something sacred and sustainable for the Jewish people, you don’t just need a part of the people, you need all of it. If a large part of our people are alienated and confused, the Torah seems to be telling us (and I might add, from my perspective, this could apply to politicians on all sides of the ongoing issues), you are not building something sacred or sustainable that would be fitting for Bnei Yisrael, that would be fitting for the Divine Presence that rests among us.
Pekudei – after concluding the construction of the mishkan in Vayakhel, the opening paragraph of Parshat Pekudei commences: ‘these are the accounts of the mishkan, the Mishkan of Testimony, the accounting done at Moshe’s command, the work of the Levites, under the command of Ithamar, the son of Aharon the Kohen’.
The emphasis here is on accountability. Moshe Rabbeinu, the man who had just come down from heaven, the man whose face shone with rays of light, the man who had just secured the survival of the Bnei Yisrael, the ultimate tzadik who was beyond reproach, nonetheless insisted, not only on an accounting for all the materials (precious metals, lush fabrics, rare spices, etc) contributed for the mishkan, but also to reinforce the integrity of the accountability procedure through oversight by an independent third party of impeccable standing.
The Torah, then, seems to be contrasting the efforts of Moshe and the Children of Israel to establish accountability and independent oversight with the behavior of the key actors today – again on all sides of the current issues – be they judges lacking sufficient accountability and independent oversight under the current system, or politicians seeking to throw off accountability and independent oversight under the proposed system.
Taken together, the two names of the parshiot alone, Vayakhel and Pekudei, the one name referring to the whole community, the other name referring to accountability, can be understood as a stinging rebuke for the actors on all sides to this judicial reform.
The message the Torah seems to be giving us with increasing forcefulness and urgency – pause, come together and develop something as the whole community of Bnei Yisrael, and whatever the outcome is, nurture the continued trust, confidence and unity of the community, all of the community, through ensuring there is accountability and independent oversight in place.