But alongside the detailed instructions of how to build the Tabernacle, the Parashot embed other instructions: instructions – or blueprint if you will – for building a community.
In this Dvar Torah I’ve decided to shift the focus from the specific instructions of how to build the Tabernacle into the less specific, yet equally beautiful, blueprint for building a community.
So as a service to this community, let me introduce you to the five-point method for building a community. The method was used by the Israelites to transform themselves from people to community, and it is still relevant to us today, thousands of years later.
- Point 1 - Gather: The Parashot start with Moses assembling the congregation of Israel. The word assemble is derived from the root ל.ה.ק. An act of bringing people together, crowding. It is no coincidence that another Hebrew word derives from the very same root: community. It is indeed the act of gathering together that turns us from separate individuals to a community.
- Point 2 - Faith: The need of common denominator that is strong enough to turn a group of individuals into a community; from aggregation into a congregation. Their joint past, present or possible future, were not enough to turn the Israelites into a community. This was well demonstrated with the fear that Moses had disappeared on Mount Sinai, a fear that resulted in the creating of the golden calf. Faith is this common denominator, the glue that turns us from a group to a community. And thus, Moses, upon his return and after gathering the congregation, presented the people with a common denominator: the Shabbat, the common day of rest.
- Point 3 - Labour: Gathering and faith may not be enough. Then there are the common goals, the tasks, as the Israelites were called to work on building the Tabernacle. To bring forth their labour.
- Point 4 - Willing Hearts: But labour alone is not enough, the parashot tell us. There is nothing to labour without intent.
- Point 5 - Commitment: There is no, nor can be, a recipe for generating commitment. Nevertheless, an abundance of willing hearts (14 times!) can generate nothing less, as the parashot clearly demonstrate. The Israelites were asked to bring their most precious belongings: their gold, silver, brass, jewels, and stones. Their building materials, wood, and wool. There were no quotas that each person had to meet, nor a mandatory demand to contribute. Only the call to bring an offering from “whosoever is of a willing heart”. And that was enough. More than enough. As the Torah tells us: 'The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make.' They achieved the dream of every community: to having greater commitment than needed. So great was the commitment and the offerings that the ‘the people were restrained from bringing’. Today we would have called it a miracle.
There is much more that can be said about these Parashot; about the unity of the people, about how the building of the Tabernacle became the righting of the golden calf wrongs, and about how the building of the Tabernacle was also the building of a new identity.
All those things can be as relevant today as they were then. Because today, a good community can help us build a stronger identity, right the wrongs of our past and unite us. All we need is to gather around our faith and offer our labour with willing hearts and commitment.