Judaism: Assembling the People
Moshe KempinskiMoshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Ever since the last national elections the country has been split between two supposedly opposing views. On the one is the world view that comprehends the ultimate value of Torah study and observance. On the other hand there is the world view that senses the incredible of merit of rebuilding and protecting the reborn state of the Jewish people.
The solution will not be found by simply increasing mutual respect. The people of Israel will need to elevate themselves to an understanding of mutual appreciation. Each side will need to come to the point of understanding that both world views need to be aligned into one, in order to ensure the safety and sanctity of this country.
The Torah portion begins with the verse; Exodus 35:1. Moshe assembled the whole community of the children of Israel, "And Moses assembled (vayakhel) the whole community ( Adat) of the children of Israel , and he said to them: These are the things that Hashem has commanded to make. "
Clearly, the Torah is revealing much to us in this choice of words. G-d has commanded Moshe to gather the people before, yet this is the first time the word Hakhel is used. Furthermore the Hebrew letter Vav at the beginning of the word means "and", that is to say “and Moshe assembled”. We are made to learn that this assembling is intricately connected to what has occurred just before,
The assembling of the people of Israel occurs right after the sin of the Golden Calf. The sin and its repercussions have left a broken-spirited and hurting people. While it was true it seems that only three thousand people participated in the idolatry of the golden calf, the rest of the people stood by. That made them accomplices. That is a biblical axiom.
After the collapse of the walls of Jericho the armies of Joshua were filled with great self-assurance. This was quickly punctured after the defeat at the next city called Ai. We soon learn of the reason for that defeat "But the children of Israel committed a trespass concerning the devoted thing; for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerach, of the tribe of Judah, took of the devoted thing; and the anger of Hashem was kindled against the children of Israel."( Joshua 7:1) A single individual's sin is seen by G-d as the sin of the whole people, for we are all responsible for one another.
How does a people who has failed in their mission and faltered in their destiny regain the courage to begin anew? “And Moshe assembled (vayakhel) the whole community (adat) of the children of Israel “ Moshe was intent on making the Eida ( community) of Israel into a Kehilla ( assembly).
The word “Eidah “originates from the word “eidut” or witnessing. It describes a community that witness similar experiences and perhaps sense an identical history. Yet it is a community that see itself as a body of individuals connected by a bond of history and experience. A “Kehilla “, on the other hand is a corporate body focused on a similar purpose and destiny.
After the sin of the calf the people of Israel were feeling threatened, broken and unworthy . The solution to that malaise would only be found in their being connected to the destiny and common purpose of their people-hood. Only then would they be empowered back into action. As a result the two ingredients of their healing would be in place, corporate purpose and united action.
"And Moses assembled (vayakhel) the whole community (adat) of the children of Israel , and he said to them: "These are the things that Hashem commanded to make."
A nation which sees its individual parts as merely connected by shared events and history will have trouble growing and moving forward. A country wherein only part of the people are connected to the spiritual destiny while the other part can only relate to the physical development and protection of the state will remain forever divided.
Every individual in this country must be given the tools to explore and rediscover the spiritual truth that has nourished and sustained this people throughout the ages. At the same time every individual must be given the opportunity to participate in the physical development of this Jewish home and be connected to its protection and survival.
After Moshe gives them a description of what was needed to create the tabernacle, we read that the community of Israel rushed to do His will. An “Eidah” with a common purpose;
"The entire community (Kol HaEidah) departed from before Moses".(Exodus 35:20). May we see that common purpose in our land speedily in our days
(LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved)