2/20/2014

Shabbat Vayakhel

Friday Candles 5:18pm
Shabbat Havdalah 6:15pm

On the face of it there is not much that is new in this week’s reading from the Torah. We have already been given a full description of how the Tabernacle was to be built. Now we are told how it actually was built.

What is new here is the idea of community. Moshe establishes the idea of Kehillah, a smaller unit within the broader one of the people. The Tabernacle was for the nation. The Kehilla, the community was for those with shared ideas within the wider unit.

It’s like today. Jews span the complete spectrum from religious to secular, rich to poor, capitalist to socialist. We come from different backgrounds and cultures. We are Jews but we are also Persian, Moroccan, American or a melange of several. We often have very little in common with each other.

Most of us Jews live in much smaller Jewish units. The kehilla, the congregation, is a mechanism for uniting smaller units of people. And what unites people more often than not is shared experiences less how they think and more what they do.

After mentioning Kehilla the Torah talks about keeping Shabbat. The work on the Mishkan, the National shrine, stopped for Shabbat. Shabbat, the family, the community coming together, took priority. In fact our place in the Kehilla is defined by Shabbat. Why do we or don’t we keep Shabbat? Is it an accident of birth, imposed on us, or is it a choice, freely embraced?

Shabbat in our world is a voluntary experience. Our particular community only comes together on a Shabbat or Festival. And even then only some of us do. Shabbat might not define us as a nation. But it does tell us how much Judaism is an integral or a peripheral part of our lives.