The Perfect Community

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3D rendering of a forming puzzle with the word Community

“AND YOU SHALL command the children of Israel.”

Tetzaveh begins with a charge to Moshe to command the community of Israel to bring all that is needed to maintain the Menorah. He is also told to instruct the “wise hearted” to prepare the vestments for Aaron the Kohen. As the parasha unfolds however there seems to be an abrupt change in the manner with which G-d continued to instruct Moshe. “And you shall make a Menorah,” “and you shall make a Shulchan, and the Mishkan shall you make.” No longer is Moshe told to command others. The instructions are now directed towards him personally to build and create the various components of the sanctuary. If that is the case, how then do we know that it was incumbent upon Moshe to instruct and command others to build the Mishkan? To this says the Midrash Hagadol, we must refer back to the parasha’s beginning, where in the very first pasuk we are indeed told V’ata tetzaveh “and you shall command the children of Israel,” veyikchu “that they shall bring.” One would then conclude that it was Moshe’s role to instruct, guide and command. It was Israel’s task to fulfill, create and do.

This may very well be the reason as to why Moshe’s name is not mentioned even once throughout the parasha. The Torah did not want to create the erroneous impression that the burden of responsibility to create and maintain a sanctuary is solely placed on the shoulders of Moshe, the leader. The responsibility of establishing a House of G-d is one to be shared by the entire community of Israel. It is the responsibility of the leader to inspire, teach and motivate. It is the community’s responsibility to heed the call of its leaders and follow through on their initiatives.

There are cynics among us who believe that the burdens of mikdash are to be overwhelmingly borne by communal religious leaders. Many would like to believe that it was only Moshe who was told, “You make,” “You do,” “You create.” Many moderns mistakenly view their rabbis as the ones assigned to pray, learn, and observe mitzvot. They feel religiously comfortable when their rabbi “conducts services,” and officiates at religious events, as they passively look on. Frequently, companies seeking to attain kosher certification, naively inquire when the “rabbi will come to bless the equipment,” failing to understand that much personal activity and involvement is needed to “be kosher.”

The Torah addresses the issue by informing us of the proper role definitions. Veata tetzaveh – your job, Moshe, is to teach, inspire, nudge and prompt the community. The community’s job is to enthusiastically and generously respond – veyikchu – to generously cooperate, participate and share. When everyone carries out their given responsibility fully and honestly, a sanctuary can be built where even G-d can reside comfortably.

“Oh, now we understand,” smirk the cynics. “You want to place the real burden upon the community. They need to do, bring, contribute. So, what is left for the leaders to do? You mean it’s such a big deal to lead and then also get the honor, recognition and press coverage that goes with it?”

I am reminded of two charming stories. The first is of a poor simpleton who was befriended by a millionaire lover of music who happened to have a private orchestra. One day the simpleton approached his benefactor and requested that he be assigned a position in the orchestra. Astonished, the rich man exclaimed, “I had no idea you could play an instrument.”

“I can’t,” was the simpleton’s response. “But I see you have a man there who does nothing but wave a stick around while the others are really working hard, playing. His job I can handle.” Don’t so many feel the same about their leaders? They do nothing but wave sticks around. The community’s members – they work hard!

The second story is also about a famous conductor, who was rehearsing a great symphony orchestra. Everything seemed to be going perfectly; 150 skilled musicians were responding to the maestro’s guiding hands.

Suddenly, in midst of a fortissimo passage, the conductor rapped the music stand. There was a sudden silence. “Where is the piccolo?” the conductor demanded.

The piccolo player had missed his entry, and the trained ear of the conductor, even in midst of the glorious volume of sound which filled the hall, had noted its absence. “Where is the piccolo”?

Trained, seasoned and sensitive leaders keep their eyes and ears attuned to the role and mission of every community member. When everyone plays together as a committed member of one orchestra, closely watching and following the leader’s beat, we have a perfect community. And that deserves thunderous applause!

Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran serves as OU Kosher’s Vice President of Communications and Marketing.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.