Friday, March 4, 2016

A Shabbat Message - Parashat Vayakhel and the message of Community

This week's Torah portion, Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20). As all Torah portions it contains several different plot lines. This one talks about the many aspects of building the mishkan (portable tabernacle that housed the 10 Commandment and was carried around in the desert with them), particularly that all the people donated materials to be used in the building itself. It's primary message, and the message of all the portions surrounding this one, is about community. 

To be a community means we do things together, we take care of each other, we contribute. To emulate this, I will soon be sending out an email regarding the start of a new volunteer committee at OK, a Chesed Committee whose goal will be helping out members when they are in need - during an illness, birth of a child, death of a family member etc. 

But, as we know, our obligations towards helping others does not stop at the "borders" of our OK community. We are part of a larger community of Jews, of non-Jews, of those who live in our neighborhoods and in our country. We are reminded quite poignantly of this in this time of presidential politics. Quite a few people are vying to become the president of this great nation. Two things really stick out to me (among many). First, the people running are male and female, Caucasian and Hispanic, Christian and Jewish. This is the most diverse national race that I can recall. Second, no matter how diverse the playing field is, race and ethnicity have become a part of patter. This is unacceptable for a nation founded by immigrants and given the make up and sophistication of people today. 

You will find that I rarely use my rabbinic platform to discuss politics. But the racism that has seeped in to this election cycle is not just a political issue; it is a human rights issue. So please be aware, listen and learn and pay attention to what is being said during this political cycle. And, if you can, try to counteract the hateful words. No effort will be too small. 

Here is a link to a short, pithy article from Jewniverse called "Albert Einstein's Little-Known Civil Rights Activism." As we know, racism has been around for a long time. It's time to eradicate it.

Shabbat Shalom and blessings of peace and love to all, 
Rabbah Arlene

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