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Vayahkel-Pekudei

“The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the Lord; every man and woman” Exodus 35:2

    The building of the tabernacle emphatically demonstrates the importance of the individual in a community. Moses gathers everyone to hear his words. Then, in a show of understanding of the importance of the task at hand, everyone brings their donation for the building of the Mishkan, the sanctuary in the heart of the community. Not only do they give, but they give until there is no need to give any longer.

    This building is not just a place in which God will be met by Moses, but a centre for the community. A focus for their lives and daily existence. It must have been easy in those days since only one focus was required.  

    Today, community and synagogue does not mean a building or a committee but a more complex interplay of relationships, programmes and visions. Yet the Jewish community is still dependent on contributions of resources and volunteer time.

    Our portion repeatedly emphasises this giving, the very essence of community building. The Women’s Torah Commentary published by the Union of Reform Judaism remarks how the reference to men and women “emphasises that everyone – women as well as men — participated”. It points out that although Moses has called for contributions, “the gifts are considered voluntary”. 

    Indeed, it is this notion of freewill offering, n’davah, that leads to the use of the same Hebrew root to describe volunteering in modern Hebrew. Giving, without coercion, towards a common goal. 

    This, along with the relationships we build between one another, is the foundation of a community. We give of ourselves to further our community and the work it does. 

    The Jewish community is remarkable for how at its core there is so much giving of time and money. This parashah reminds us the community must make space for each individual, just as everyone must give however their heart moves them, using whatever skills and resources they have.
     

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