Shabbat Shalom! I mentioned the idea of teamwork and consensus last week, and again in this week’s Torah portion of Parashat Vayek’hel-Pekudei we see the importance of working as a collective in order to create a kehillah kedosha, a community in which holiness with dwell.
The Israelites are told to all bring an offering to God, toward building the Mishkan, and all who have some sort of skill to contribute, should help with the building, sewing, sculpting, and putting together of all the pieces of the Midrash. The Torah tells us everyone came, those with wise hearts, the men and the women, and they brought so much that Moses had to ask them to stop bring gifts. Bezalel and Ohaliav are singled out by name, first by God and then appointed in front of all the Israelites by Moses, to be the overseers of this project, one as the master architect and the other as the master artisan. But truly it is the people’s efforts to build up something holy out of their love for their community and for God that creates God’s home in the desert.
I think this outpouring of collective work and devotion to building their holy dwelling space is beautiful. First of all, for so much of this section of the Torah, we are told that Moses speaks only to the men or counts only the men. Here we are told that not only that men and women both come, but Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman says that when the Torah says, “They came, the men along with the women,” it means that the women were the first to flow forth with their gifts and skills and the men followed.
Meanwhile, a Midrash Rabbah teaches that “when Moses said, ‘Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, the offering for G‑d,’ and did not say it directly to the princes, they were displeased at not being asked to bring. So they thought: Let the people bring what they will, and we shall make good whatever they omit. But all Israel entered with zeal into the work of the Mishkan, and joyfully and enthusiastically brought all the donations. The princes then wished to bring their donations but could not, because Moses had already given orders: ‘Let neither man nor woman bring any more...’ The princes were distressed, and said: ‘Seeing that we were not privileged to participate in the offerings to the Mishkan, let us give towards the garments of the high priest . . .’”. That is why only after the Torah describes the throngs of people bringing their gifts and their skills to the building of the Mishkan, the Torah tells us also that the heads of all the tribes contributed precious lapis lazuli to the creation of the priest’s garments and tools to be used inside the finished Mishkan.
This has been our past, and this will be our future. There have been generations and models of leadership where one person really takes the reins. A leader who does all the work and tries to carry the burden of building a holy, loving community may be selfless, hardworking, and earnest, all good things. But they may also be tired, and missing the bigger picture. We are remembering now that it takes all of us to bring the Divine in the center of our community. It takes everyone sharing their gifts and their skills, contributing to the community, to the physical space, and to the spiritual well-being of both. Only when we work in the collective, when we have decentralized leadership, where many people may be the point person or the leader in disparate areas of creating the space and community we want, can we all move forward together, with God at our center. Together, may we create Sanctuary within and among ourselves, and together may we build this world with love.