Engaging Every Person


This past Shabbat I had the unique pleasure of participating in the Kol Echad inclusion service at Chizuk Amuno. For those of you that don’t know, this is an inclusive service for all families, but designed for children for whom our classic service offerings might not be the correct fit. During my walk from the sanctuary to the location of this service about four people joined me, interested to see what I was describing. When I arrived, it was clear to me the tremendous level of spirit and Shabbat that was permeating throughout the room.

Our first activity was to use some pre-cut cardboard pieces and build a mishkan, a tabernacle. We built what could only be described as a beautiful house of God. Every child and adult present, contributed of themselves and as the Torah tells us, because we built this mishkan, God definitively dwelt within it. Following our building project, we read a story together about Bezalel, the craftsman charged with building and designing the first house of God in this week’s portion. The story imagines him as a young but somewhat removed young man, who collects what he considers beautiful stones and threads and in a small box. His family tells him that it is an unnecessary burden to carry through the desert, but he not only continues to schlep these trinkets, he adds to his collection whenever he sees something that catches his eye.

Finally, the people are tasked with building the mishkan, and Moses asks them to bring gifts. He requests that they bring, jewels, threads and anything that might help in this process. The people look around at one another not knowing how they will accomplish this, when Bezalel comes forward and almost single handedly solves all of their problems. The moral is clear. We all bring different gifts to the world. Our individuality ensures that every one of us possesses skills and talents that are inherently unique. Our responsibility is not to be like other people, but to see the uniqueness in each of us. God tasks Bezalel with leading this important project because he is filled with Godly spirit, wisdom, insight and knowledge. His gifts are perfectly suited to this task.

We are blessed in the Jewish community to have many people with many unique gifts. Our challenge as a community is to find the right people for the right jobs. We know that every one of us can contribute if asked and if put into a position where our talent is celebrated and empowered. The mishkan project turns out so well that Moses has to ultimately tell people to stop contributing. We too might be tempted to dream of a Jewish building project where we actually have to tell people to stop bringing. But in truth, I believe that the greatest success we can achieve as a community is not financial, rather our greatest version of our self is realized when we can identify and engage the unique skill or talent that every member possesses. When we discover the Godly spirit in each of us, and each other, then and only then can we say that God has dwelled within our midst.

Rabbi Joshua Z. Gruenberg is senior rabbi at Chizuk Amuno Congregation.

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