Social Distancing and Vayakhel?

The irony is glaring, it is both tragic and almost comic. This week we read the parshiot of Vayakhel and Pekudei. Vayakhel literally and figuratively assembles the community- the Kehila. Many if not most of us will read these lines in isolation and yet reading them together will in fact bring us together as community.

The portions record the incredible efforts and contributions of the community to the building of the Tabernacle. It is relayed using a word that is still resonating with us albeit we are shortly leaving the month of Adar. The phrase used to capture the enthusiasm of the people is Marbim. The people had been asked to contribute to the continued building fund for the Tabernacle, in chapter 36 verse 8;
וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֣ה לֵּאמֹ֔ר מַרְבִּ֥ים הָעָ֖ם לְהָבִ֑יא מִדֵּ֤י הָֽעֲבֹדָה֙ לַמְּלָאכָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה לַֽעֲשׂ֥ת אֹתָֽהּ

And they spoke to Moses, saying: “The people are bringing very much, more than is enough for the labor of the articles which the Lord had commanded to do.”
When we as a people are “Marbim”, our true selves become evident, we lose ourselves or perhaps more poignantly find ourselves and discover the deepest facets of our capacity to embrace life in happiness Marbim B’simcha and Marbim l’havi and to be overly generous of heart and soul.

In response Moses commanded, and they announced in the camp, saying: “Let no man or woman do any more work for the offering for the Holy.” So the people stopped bringing.

וַיְצַו משֶׁה וַיַּעֲבִירוּ קוֹל בַּמַּחֲנֶה לֵאמֹר אִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה אַל יַעֲשׂוּ עוֹד מְלָאכָה לִתְרוּמַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ וַיִּכָּלֵא הָעָם מֵהָבִיא

The terminology in the Hebrew begs for deeper understanding.

What must the “sound” the “voice” – the Kol throughout the camp have sounded like? This seems pretty dramatic. The phrase used for the people stopped bringing, is ויכלא, it sounds like and conjures the term ויכולו Vayechulu, used to describe the completion of the creation. This is clearly a moment that parallels that creation, this time of a people. A people that yesteryear were slaves becoming passionate and so committed to the Kehila, the community.

Perhaps there is no more fitting a parsha to read this week than this one and more than irony there is instruction, a timely yet timeless directive to constantly reimagine how we create, embrace and nourish community. Social distancing requires if not demands new and stronger connections, new forms of communities that will not only hold us together, but actually create the together .

Shabbat shalom

About the Author
Shalom is a senior educator and consultant for The iCenter and serves as faculty for the Foundation for Jewish Camp . Prior, he served as the AVI CHAI Project Director and Director of Education in the Shlichut and Israel Fellows unit for the Jewish Agency. He has served as a consultant for the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Jewish Peoplehood Committee, and teaches a course in experiential education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Shalom was also a scholar on the prestigious Jerusalem Fellows Program, after which he served as the Executive Director of Jewish Renewal for United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA). Shalom is an acclaimed public speaker on contemporary Israel who brings extensive knowledge, humor and passion. He feels privileged to live in Jerusalem and loves sharing stories about life in the Land of so much Promise.
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