Parshat Vayakhel: How G-d Commands us to Show “Audacious Hospitality” to our Fellow Jew – by Doug Gallant

Parshat Vayakhel
G-d Commands us to Show “Audacious Hospitality” to our Fellow Jew
(Exodus 35:1-38:20)
Doug Gallant

“Va’yakhel Moshe Et Kol Adat B’nei Yisrael”, And Moshe gathered together the entire congregation of Israel”. The message of this gathering was that we needed to re-discover the true meaning of Jewish unity. Kehillah is more than just being gathered together. It represents the idea that we are a community, with, ultimately, the same purpose, and the same goals.

In order for the world to work as designed, with peace and holiness, the Presence of G-d, must be embedded into the world. To achieve this Moses needed a project that would bring all the tribes of Israel, in spite of their differences, together. The project was the Mishkan.

Everyone brought something to the table. Some brought their wealth, some brought their engineering ability, some brought their weaving and other forms of artistry, some brought their physical strength and others brought their organizational skills. Everyone contributed their best and worked together. This concerted effort brought us from individuals to a cohesive nation. Once we were a nation, the presence of G-d rested upon us.

In other words, if each of us thinks that we can exist totally separate of the other, then we will never become all that we can be. We are, all of us, , every single one of us, beautiful in our own right. But we only become Holy when we are together. ‘You are One’, we say to G-d, and Your Name is One, and our goal is to try to experience that one-ness in this world, and who is like unto Israel, the nation of One-ness…’ And if G-d is truly one, and there is a little piece of G-d (the image of G-d in which we are all created…) inside each of us, then we must realize that we are all really one as well.

If one examines the verse which commands the Jewish people to construct the Mishkan, one notices a strange word. The verse says, “And you shall make for me a Tabernacle, and I will dwell in them”. The Sages point out that the correct word would have been, “in it”! But by using the word “them”, the Torah was trying to teach us that G-d desired to dwell amongst the Jewish people, and not inside of the physical edifice of the Mishkan. However, the only way this can happen, is when there is a “them”, that the Shechina can dwell upon. When there are only individuals, who do not work together as a unit, there can be no dwelling of G-d’s presence. For this reason, the Torah chose to teach the laws of the Mishkan specifically in the presence of everybody together, in order to convey this crucial message.

It becomes clear why the Mishkan could only be effective if the Jews would foster a general feeling of camaraderie when they were constructing it. But there is perhaps a deeper meaning in this Midrash. We know that at MT Sinai, the Jews became a nation as the verse says, “Today, you are a nation”. The reason why they merited such a wonderful title is because they were “One nation with one heart”, and in this merit, they received the Torah and their nationality.

When they sinned with the golden calf, they lost that status.
The only way to get it back was to perform some monumental event as a people which would reinstate their previous position, and for this reason. G-d commanded them in the construction of the Miskan – in order to return their status as “a nation” through a great act of sanctity performed as brothers.

I would like to explain one of the reasons it is so important that we as the Jewish people foster a sense of harmony between us, and avoid any fragmentation at all costs. The verse says, “There is no righteous man in all the earth that does good and never sins”. This verse means to say that each and every person as an individual has flaws that will probably never be fully worked out. But the community as a whole has no flaws. Meaning whatever one person is lacking, or is weak in, he will find another person who can compensate for his weakness and cover for him in that area.

Truthfully, this trait of togetherness, or lack thereof, is the primary cause that we need to pull ourselves together as a community, and start displaying a profound love and caring for each other. And this is what IMPACTED me so strongly at the Recent Biennial in San Diego. After which My goal is help turn TBK into a Caring Community, filled with what the leader of the URJ, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, calls “Audacious Hospitality.”

I looked up the definition of Audacious Hospitality in Webster’s dictionary. Audacious is bold, adventurous, courageous and daring, prepared to take chances in order to achieve something. Hospitality is the relationship between the guest and the host. Showing a natural kindness and courtesy towards others The generous and friendly reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, and strangers.

Our Sages said: The mitzva of ahavat yisrael (being a part of the community of Israel) extends to everyone in the community of the people of Israel…. even if you have never met him. How much more so does it extend….. to every member – man or woman of the Jewish community where we live, that belongs to our own family here at Temple B’rith Kodesh. The 8th mitzvah that we are commanded is to emulate G d to the best of our ability.

The source of this commandment is G d’s statement “And you shall walk in all of my ways.” Just as G d is called kind, so too, We must be kind . This commandment to emulate G-d can be measured by the good deeds that we do for each other, right here, in our own TBK family. When one Jew stretches out his hand to another, to share the joys and sorrows of everyday life—all of us stretch out our hands together. As Rabbi Druin (Our Sofer) once said to me: We are not just a religion. We are a soul. A single soul radiating into many bodies, each one moving forward on its own unique mission, each one playing a crucial role.

Together we compose an orchestra with no redundant parts, no instrument more vital than another. A healthy body is one where every part works in harmony. A healthy Jewish people is one big, caring family where each individual is as concerned for the other,,, as for his own self. When one Jew faces rough times and the others hold his hands. Where one meets good fortune and all of us celebrate!! Where we each run to do an act of kindness for the other.

If someone ignores his own brother’s needs, what’s behind his kindness to others? First we learn to care for our own family, and then we can truly care for everyone else. If we don’t take care of our own brothers and sisters, who will? This is the path the Torah gives us. To be a part of the people with whom you share a unique heritage and journey. G-d always shows us the proper way to live…. And so I’m going to finish with the some inspiring verses from our Shabbat Prayer Elu Devarim:
These are the Things that are limitless:

Engaging in deeds of kindness!!!
Celebrating with Bride and Groom.
visiting the sick.
Being devoted in Prayer
And last “but maybe most important”:
Deal graciously, with kindness and compassion
when welcoming strangers,
…each other,
…and our guests!!!
And together lets us say……AMEN