Tetzaveh – Exodus 27:20 – 30:10

This Torah portion is primarily about the priestly vestments, clothing, adornments and the altars.  Two things struck me particularly.  The commentaries point out that in the Torah portion Moses’ name is not mentioned at all yet the “directions” are to him.  So it is selfless and ultra present at the same time. Moses said to G-d that he would be nameless in the Torah as a result of the people sinning with the golden calf.  The ultimate selflessness, to remain nameless in the holiest of holy works.  And yet, he is in this most intimate relation with G-d in this portion, G-d providing him with the instructions required for the priests to maintain the relationship between G-d and the people.  Which directs my attention to the tzedakah question – nameless?  I think so.  We as Jews talk about tzedakah, about charitable good works, about tikkun olam, all the time.  There are those who do many good works but feel it necessary to be recognized as often and as publicly as possible.  How close to G-d does that put the person?  The good is the good but I think the desire for a “return” undermines the value of the good.  Sometimes the recognition, the price to the recipient, is too much.  There are those who do small good works but do them anonymously.  How close to G-d does that put the person?  Much closer I think.  It is much more intimate an act to do small acts of kindness and charity without hope of reward.  Not to say that there aren’t those that do great works without the need of public reward.

The other theme in this portion that struck me is that of the “everlasting” light that is supposed to burn from morning until night.  Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?  All the time versus some of the time.  I loved a commentary I read which is essentially that this contradiction is a metaphor for the contrast between the perfect and the imperfect. That it is our job to find a relationship between the divine and the human, the eternal and the temporal.  And isn’t that the meaning of our lives, the striving for a perfection that we know perfectly well is unattainable, yet we continue to strive.  And as with tzedakah, doesn’t the striving for the unattainable put is in a more intimate relationship with g-d.  And this is not the same as striving for “success”.  It is striving for the divine; the perfection of our selves.  Ironically striving to attain the perfection of our human selves is by definition to only attain a better imperfection! 

Ultimately in this portion, both themes that spoke to me are about doing the best we can not because it is asked of us, not because it will gain us material goods or rich recognition, but because it brings us closer to the divine.  They are both about improving our relationship with G-d and what is best in us; in having a more intimate relationship with G-d and with ourselves.  Shabbat Shalom.

Things Your Rabbi & Rebbetzin Want You To Know #1 ~ Tikkun Olam

Dear Jake,
Congratulations on your graduation from High School. The following is our advice to you!

We would say to you to be realistic about your expectations. Do not be disappointed if you do not become an astronaut, social workers do valuable work. Do not worry if you do not invent a lifesaving medication, perhaps you will, one day instead, give life to a baby.

All of us start with great expectations and high ideals. If you keep your ideals, the expectations will fall into place. It does not matter how high you rise in the world’s estimation as long as you do not get above yourself. All of us have entered into this world the same way, and all of us will leave it in the same way too. It is what we do with the time allocated to us that matters.

Remember that education is a privilege and privileges bring responsibilities. We do not expect you to do away with the draught in Africa, or poverty in the world, but it would good if you could help one starving family, or do your little part in preserving the world’s natural resources.

In Judaism, we say that when it is time for a person to depart this world, the best thing that can be said about that person is not the amount of money he had, or how successful his business was, or the number of cars he had, or houses, but that he had a “Shem Tov”, a good name. We ask you now to live your life counting not all of the great things you have, but, instead counting all of the great things you did to make this world a better place. Then you too shall have a “Shem Tov”.