With the portion this week, Pekude, we complete the book of Exodus. As we finish the book, we read of the completion of the Tabernacle. These past weeks the Torah is filled with the instructions on the creation of this “portable” sanctuary. With its’ completion, the Israelites begin a new phase of their wanderings. God’s presence appears as a cloud by day and fire by night. With the completion of the task, Moses blesses the assembly in Exodus 39:43: “And when Moses saw that they had performed all the tasks,– as God had commanded, so they had done–Moses blessed them”.
The community had come together to fulfill a common task. This is certainly worthy of blessing. This mixed multitude performed as they had been commanded. There is a lesson here for all of us in our contemporary communities. Synagogues especially, which, in a way, symbolize this Tabernacle, are creations of many people. Go to most synagogues and you will find a current example of a mixed multitude. So often, diverse groups operating with their own agendas. Yet, often, able to come together to fulfill a task; a social justice program, a shiva support, a celebration of a special moment. The power of our congregations is rarely based on theology. Rather, I am convinced, it is based on a concept of a relationship based community that, despite its diversity, is able to unite around a common good. This “unity of diversity” is the goal that all congregations strive for. Agencies as well!
Over and over, as I travel for Jewish Sacred Aging, and speak to congregations and meetings, one theme keeps repeating. What keeps that sense of unity? WHat keeps people involved and committed to a common goal? It is the power and presence of sacred relationships. It is the aspect of community that we all crave–especially as we get older. Look at those congregations that are thriving and you will find a community that values relationships over program. And this is the real blessing of the institution. So many of us enter these sanctuaries alone or searching. When relationships are created, fostered and nurtured, the “self” becomes actualized and we become motivated to involvement. When that self is left alone or ignored, it is as if the very values of creation and our tradition are also ignored.
So, we need to take a lesson from Moses and Pekude. We need to recognize the power of our relationships and to bless them, for they are, in many ways, the compass that helps direct our paths. And blessing is also given to this portion, for, as many of your know, when we finish a book of Torah, we together bless the moment by saying “chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek”; be strong and courageous. Take strength from your relationships. nourish them and work at them,for they shall bless you and you bless the,=m.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.