ShabbatshalomThe parsha begins soon after the incident with the Golden Calf. Moshe has come down from Mount Sinai after having spent another 40 days on its top. He has brought down another set of tablets which indicates that indeed there has been Divine forgiveness for what the people had done. Rashi says that Moshe came down the day after Yom Kippur, the day of forgiveness.

The first two words of the parsha are, "VaYakhel Moshe" "And Moshe gathered." The word "VaYahkel," comes from the Hebrew root meaning to gather or to assemble. Interestingly, while vocalized slightly different, this same root is used at the beginning of the Golden Calf incident, "VaYikahel haAm al Aaron," "The people gathered around Aaron." The word Kehilla which is derived from the same Hebrew root, means "community". In both cases, a community was indeed formed however, they were very different. This first kehilla created had no leader to focus the people. There was no vision. There was only chaos which yielded tragic results.

This is where we see the greatness of Moshe. While the building of the Mishkan was certainly of Divine fiat, in this week's parsha, Moshe gathered the people together, and created a new kehilla, but this time there is a leader, there is a vision. Moshe has, in fact built a team and this team is dedicated to a holy purpose; to create a structure for the Divine presence to remain among the people.

HaShem had commanded Moshe to ask the people to make donations so that the Mishkan could be built. The first item requested is gold. Instead of gold being used for something negative, gold is used for a Divine, holy purpose. In fact, rabbinic tradition teaches that the people were so motivated to build the Mishkan that they donated so much that Moshe was forced to ask the people to stop. (It should be noted this took place in Parshat Terumah. There is a concept that not all the events in the Torah are necessarily in chronology order. Therefore there is an opinion within Jewish tradition that the Golden Calf incident took place prior to the command for the Mishkan to be built. It is beyond the scope of this piece to explore this deeper.)

A clear vision gives a path forward. However, a leader can't do it alone, therefore one of the best things a leader can do is create a team. Moshe is the consummate team builder and through Divine command he leads this team to build the Mishkan which not only "houses" the Divine presence, but this Mishkan would become the prototype for the 39 Melachot, the categories of activities that are prohibited on Shabbat. The significance of this team's efforts is very great indeed.

GBDS is our Mishkan. It is a place where a special team exists, dedicated to fostering a Judaism that is spiritually rich and meaningful ; a Judaism that is compelling and compassionate. May this Mishkan, situated in Oakland, New Jersey, be the vanguard of a vibrant Jewish tradition, and may we be worthy of this magnificent gift.

Shabbat Shalom