- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On March 1, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat.
Last week, the people feared Moses had died. They expected his arrival down the mountain and he did not show. How long should it take to receive the Torah? Their fear and faithlessness led them to construct what they knew. Or at least what they thought they knew. The newly freed Israelites insisted Aaron fashion a god to whom they could worship. He obliged and produced a molten calf. (Exodus 32: 1-4)
The Hebrew used in its specific grammatical structure reveals their intent.
Vayeekahal. The people gathered against Aaron.
It is a passive verb form filled with ill-will. Whenever it appears in this structure, nothing good comes out of it. The root of these two similar words means community, but what kind of community did they make? Later in the book of Numbers, the same form of the verb will appear in the rebellious antics of Korah who will challenge Moses’ leadership. Though the people had no power or agency, they created conflict. The use of this verb form connotes a menacing nuance, as the commentator Ibn Ezra notes.
This week, the same Hebrew verb appears, but it is a different form.
Vayakheil. Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community (Exodus 35:1)
It signifies convening and gathering. What a difference a shift in the vowels make. The root of the word still means community, but how they form it and for what purpose is what matters.
Last week, the people connived and concocted an unproductive method to promote their fear and doubt. They convinced themselves of the worst instead of connecting with the experience of redemption and revelation.
This week, Moses, as their guide, channeled their energy toward the building of the Mishkan, their traveling sanctuary. The Midrash notes that the people who had come forward to lend their gold to form a molten calf instead come forward this time with their jewelry and gold as gifts of the heart to create a sacred convening place for their community.
They have, in the words of one modern commentator, turned the golden calf into a golden opportunity.
The prospect of creation, conducted in community and motivated by a willing heart transforms the Israelite people. They are no longer a disparate, disjointed band of various tribes. They have moved from passive to active agents in the formation of their community, and as a result can move forward with great strength.
It will take, as we know today, everything they have to survive and thrive as the Jewish people as they journey through the wilderness of life together.
Qabbalat Shabbat begins at 6:00 p.m. If you are unable to join us, live stream HERE.
Tonight Shabbat Mishpachah for families with children of all ages will gather in Levi Auditorium for a taco-bar pre-neg and Shabbat activities at 5:00 p.m.
Torah Study begins at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow with a short service followed by an engaging discussion. Immediately after Torah Study there will be a Cantorial Listening gathering in preparation for the Cantorial Search.
Tomorrow there will be a Cantorial Listening gathering in conjunction with Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat, which begins at 10:00 a.m.
I appreciate your thoughts and reflections, please connect with me directly HERE.