Shabbat Parashat VaYakhel-Pekudei Shabbat HaChodesh Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh The Value of Diversity and Inclusion March 17, 2023 – 25 Adar 5783

Dear Friends,

Passover is just around the corner!  This Shabbat we will be reciting the blessing for the new Jewish month of Nisan – the month in which, according to the Torah, our people experienced the Exodus from Egypt – one of the greatest “transitions” of all times.  Rosh Chodesh Nisan will be on Wednesday night and Thursday of this coming week.  May it be a month of successful transitions, of good health and of happiness.

This Shabbat is also the final special Shabbat before Passover – Shabbat HaChodesh.  The special Maftir aliyah read on this Shabbat from the Book of Shemot [Exodus] describes the night of the very first Passover.

And, our weekly Torah portion/s of VaYakhel and Pekudei, conclude our reading of the second book of the Torah, Exodus!  It is a book replete with transitions.    In the book of Exodus, our people grow from a family into a nation.  They move from being welcome and appreciated strangers to being slaves in Egypt.  They are redeemed from slavery but are not yet ready to assume responsibility for their future.  They receive the Torah on Mount Sinai but they rebel against God and against their leaders.  In the end, they “re-group” and move toward the Promised Land, slowly…So many transitions.

Of course, transitions are notoriously difficult both for individuals and for groups.  For all groups, including congregations, transitions can be especially challenging because we face greater uncertainty than we may normally expect and our individual reactions to any particular moment of transition may vary greatly.  In the face of this reality, calm, steady leadership is crucial to moving forward through times of increased uncertainty.

Our double Torah portion gives us an important clue to successful leadership in times of transition.

Most of us have all heard of Bezalel – the individual named by God to fashion the items that constituted the Sanctuary in the desert.  But, we may not remember that, along with Bezelel, another individual, Oholiav, son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan (Exodus 35:34), was also tasked with doing this important work.

Bezalel was the grandson of Hur who was at Moses’ side assisting him to win the war when the Israelites were attacked by Amalek for no reason whatsover.  Hur was the son of Miriam, Moses’ sister.  Hur’s father was Caleb, son of Jephunneh, of the tribe of Judah.  In short, Bezalel was a descendant of Jacob and his wife Leah and he came from a distinguished and well known line of leaderhip!

Oholiav, on the other hand, came from the tribe of Dan – a less prestigious tribe.  And he was a descendant of Jacob and Jacob’s less well known maidservant wife, Bilhah.  Yet, God names Oholiav as an equal partner with Bezalel in the crafting of the Sanctuary.

What can we learn from this?

It seems that the value of diversity and inclusion in leadership is not a new idea!  The Torah is lettting us know that, especially in times of transition, it is best to involve a more inclusive and more diverse group in the work of leadership.  It is better to delegate responsibility more broadly, to listen to more ideas, to discuss, and, ultimately, to move forward successfully into a brighter future!

At Rodef Sholom Temple, we have a tradition of being open to the ideals of diversity and inclusion in leadership.  It is my prayer that we continue to work together and that we continue to move forward toward greater blessing, continued celebrations, and heightened appreciation of Jewish life and of the wisdom of Torah.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror