Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Everybody Is Playing In The Heart Of Gold Band (Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia - "Scarlet Begonias")

Our twelve year old daughter made the school basketball team. This is the first time she has played an organized team sport. This is the first time that she has sweated with teammates, bonded with teammates, and shared a common purpose with teammates. Right now they are 0-2 and they have a lot of work to do in order to be more competitive. However as parents, we have notice a huge change compared to before her tryouts. Before she would get sick and the whole world would have to stop and take notice of her being sick. Now if she is sick she wants to be healed immediately so as not to let her teammates down. Before, the world revolved around her. Now she is so much more helpful around the house because she understands that we, as a family, share common goals and we each have our jobs to do in order to achieve those goals – just like her basketball team. Our oldest daughter started in a full time job this week. It is interesting that she played team sports in middle school and in high school. She also enjoyed playing intramural sports while attending university. She is now works for an organization called Mayors Against Illegal Guns –spearheaded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. She is part of team. Like her younger sisters, she realizes the merit of working with people towards a common goal. She understands that everyone on the team has a job to do and success in the individual job translates into success for the team. Both have learned that there is something powerful when individual success is put aside for the success of the group as a whole. Perhaps this is the transition from childhood to adulthood, from the centrality of the individual to the centrality of more than the individual: to the team, to the group or to the family.

            This week’s Parsha is Vayakahel/Pekudei. Following the sin of the Golden Calf and Teshuvah (repentance), B’nai Yisroel begins executing God’s instructions for the Mishkan, the Ark, and the Tent of the Meeting. We recall that when God gave these instructions to Moshe, God started from the middle of the structure (the holiest point of the structure) and worked out towards the outer walls of the structure. Moshe gave the instructions to Bnai Yisroel in the same manner, beginning with the most sacred spot, the Aron and concluding with the least sacred spot, the Ohel Moed 0- The Tent of the Meeting.  However when Betzalel and Olihav begin organizing the construction of the project,  they begin with walls of the Tent, and then conclude with the altar and finally the Ark. 

After the destructive behavior of worshipping the Golden Calf, B’nai Yisroel comes together, and shares a common constructive experience bound by a common goal. Their goal is to complete the construction of the Mishkan. The common experience is their contributions to of raw materials. V’Yavo’u  kol Ish Asher Nasahu Libo V’chol Asher Nadvah Rucho- Every man whose heart inspired him came; and everyone whose spirit motivated him brought the portion of God for the work of the Tent of the Meeting, for all its labor and for the sacred clothing (Ex.35:21). By participating in this constructive process, everyone had an opportunity to repent for the sin of the Golden Calf and for his/her respective lack of faith. If viewed as a process, B’nai Yisroel began on the idolatrous fringes in its relationship to God, after repentance, after bringing the materials, after organizing individuals, families and tribes into cohesive construction units, they began moving towards the Holy of Holies. First they built the walls of the Tent of the Meeting, the altar, then the holy of holies.

For the vast majority, we approach God in a similar way. As we become inspired, we are drawn towards Judaism. As we become motivated, we dedicate a greater portion to God, both in terms of tzedakkah and time. It is very rare when our motivation or dedication comes as a result of a “bolt of lightening” or some existential metaphysical sign or wonder. No, our motivation and dedication is a result of our recognition that there is something missing in our lives. We miss meaning in our lives. We miss contentment in our lives. We miss peace in our lives. Certainly we can be happy without meaning. Certainly we can be happy without contentment. Certainly we can be happy without peace. Why? Happiness is rather fleeting and quite often it is the result of some external factor. Meaning, contentment and peace are ultimately internally influenced and far less fleeting.  Our movement towards God, our movement towards greater observance, is a series of steps. We don’t begin as a Tzaddik observing all mitzvot.  Rather, one mitzvah leads to another, learning leads to more learning which eventually leads to doing.

We learn several vital lessons from this Parsha. First, we learn that Judaism works best as a communal experience. Certainly we all have our own individual lives to lead and Mitzvot to follow. However, observance is much easier when its shared. Experience is more meaningful when it is shared. Whether sharing it with the family on Shabbat and Holidays or sharing it with members of the community during prayer, Judaism works best when it is done as a team sport. We learn that when the community shares a commons sense of purpose, something wonderful happens. We achieve that balance between God and ourselves. The result, of course, is that God will dwell among us. God’s dwelling among us makes our community a little warmer, a little kinder, and more significant. Third, we also learn that the actual process of building requires hard work. B’nai Yisroel, like any team, shared in the task’s difficulty. Greater participation made the experience that much more meaningful. When the experience is more meaningful, then the reward will be greater. What is the reward? The reward is a community that shares simchas and tsuris, victories as well as defeats. The reward is that no individual member of the community should ever feel alienated and alone. The reward is a community that strives for growth and improvement. This brings more meaning to the life of the individual, the family, and the community.

             Rav Yitz

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