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Parashat Tetzaveh

February 11, 2022
10 Adar I - 5782
Parashat Tetzaveh
Exodus 27:20 - 30:10

Building a just, caring community takes time, patience, and the inclusion of all who wish to join in creating such a community. I recently read about a community leader who was so eager to start the work that she had been tasked to do, that she failed to consult those who would be affected by her decisions. She said that she learned how important it was to go a bit more slowly, despite the import of the need, and consult more fully with those both doing the work and those who would be affected by the work.

How often do we stop to consider the consequences of our words and our actions? This notion of going slowly, carefully, and step by step is one that I often hear from my friend and colleague, Rabbi Bob Kaplan. He calls himself an incrementalist. One builds community step by step, listening to one another, hearing what we each have to say. When conflict or difficulty arises as it often does, the relationships we have nurtured have the capacity to give us the space we need to be able to move forward together once more.

This week’s Torah portion Tetzaveh, is part of four weekly parshiyot in Exodus dedicated to the building of the Tabernacle, the garb of the priests, and the rituals surrounding their induction into the priesthood. The painstaking detail can feel somewhat overwhelming. We have 43 verses in this week’s Torah portion describing the vestments of the priests and how they are to be made. The closest thing to these vestments can be seen in the garb of Catholic priests and the current pope has worked to simplify the grandeur of previous generations. However, what is striking to me is the care given in compiling these instructions. Not only do they take time to read, but they would also take time and care to implement.

I began this week by saying it takes thoughtful care to build something that has the potential to last, not forever, but for a good amount of time. With that in mind, I draw your attention to the two men who were given the role of overseeing this massive project. Those men were Bezalel from the tribe of Judah and Oholiav from the tribe of Dan. We are further told that God endowed them with a divine spirit of חכמה (wisdom), תבונה (insight), and דעת (knowledge). In other words, they had multiple intelligences at their disposal.

The tribe of Judah could be considered the most prominent of the 12 Tribes; they marched in front as the Israelites travel through the wilderness, clearly marked for leadership, while the tribe of Dan marched at the rear of the procession through the Sinai Desert. Their job was to pick up everything that the other tribes ahead of them dropped by accident!

The Torah not only gives us a sense of how to work, but also that we need to be inclusive in the work that we do. All of our voices and our skills matter. We will not let others define us or keep us from working together.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn


Sat, December 3 2022 9 Kislev 5783