Partnership with G!D

This Dvar Torah on Parashat Tetzaveh was given to the CAJE Board and written by Lily Serviansky, a past President of Temple Beth Am, currently the Chair of the Steering Committee at Temple Beth Am, overseeing both construction and fundraising for the new Beth Am campus, and the incoming board chair of CAJE in FY 2020-2021.

Last Shabbat, we were introduced to the building of the Mishkan/ Tabernacle with all its intricate detail and purpose.

It is the first community project in which participation of the entire community is needed in order to succeed.

It is also the transition from a miracle-based religion, where only what G!d does for us defines us, to a religion where we confront the questions of what can we do for G!d and in partnership with G!d to make this world better. The Israelites become a society; they evolved into adulthood.

This brings us to Tetzaveh, this coming Shabbat’s parsha. We are introduced to a revolutionary concept, the division of power and the foundation for what millennia later will become the separation of “church and state,” i.e., the separation of what is spiritual and what is government.

In this portion, Moses’ name is not even mentioned; the importance has shifted to Aaron and his sons as they become the High Priests. From this, we learn that not one person can be everything to all people. In order to function better as a community, you need to assign jobs, responsibilities and enlist cooperation. Each member of the community needs to find their own way to contribute and support the common good. 

The Israelites are instructed to feed the everlasting flame, at all times and throughout the ages. The Ner Tamid is not only a physical representation of reverence to God, but also a reminder of our commitment to be a Light among the Nations. And in a personal way, it represents that burning light inside each of us and our response to the call to be partners with God.

As Kohen Gadol/ High Priest, Aaron is commanded to wear a breastplate containing twelve precious stones inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes. This indicates he is responsible for each one of the tribes equally, since every single person is represented. 

The roles of prophets and priests are very different, highlighting the importance that power and leadership can never be given to just one person or one class.

In ancient Israel, the King had the power of the state, priests of holiness and ritual, and prophets were the moral compass. Each one added value and a different voice.

As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says: In Judaism, every team must be made up of people with different roles, strengths, temperaments and perspectives.

In the same way that Aaron’s breastplate reminded him of his responsibility to all of the tribes, when we wear our community hats and come together to serve, we are reminded that we too represent all voices, all denominations, all members of the tribe.

A well-run government allows for dissent and creativity where ideas can flow, be discussed, evaluated, and through consensus and cooperation, implemented.

A well-run organization is the same. If the leader is good, then people say: the leader did it. If the leader is great, they say: We did it ourselves.

May we continue to value each voice and contribution so we can continue to grow from strength to strength! Ken yehi ratzon – May it be God’s will.

Shabbat Shalom

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