Friday, March 4, 2016

Random Musing Before Shabbat–Vayakhel 5776–An Imaginary Community? (Redux and Revised 5768)

Everyone contributed to the building of the tabernacle. Each brought his/her own gift/skill/talent to the process. Each gave freely of his/her personal possessions. And they weren't even building something fixed and permanent-it was portable.

You don't see it much anymore. Whole communities working together, each contributing of their talents, to build something. Oh, there are still Amish barn-raisings, and Yachad and Habitat for Humanity projects. There are even some communes, co-housing, and similar ventures still around. For a time, in Israel, chalutzim built kibbutzim, villages, factories, and more. The spirit endures. Yet it is diminished.

Our country’s infrastructure is crumbling We geshry about the taxes required to fix all of it. Yet we need look not that far back in our own U.S. history to find another approach. Remember the WPA?

It's no so easy today to get people to contribute to projects directly. And for those who contribute financially, imagine trying to get one of them to underwrite a structure that wasn't fixed or permanent, and upon which they could not have a plaque or name affixed. (Actually, I am sure there are philanthropists out there who might do so, but my point is more about having the whole community contribute.) (Another aside – have you how some cities are confiscating and removing those 6x10 tiny houses for the homeless. They are a great example of someone with a dream being willing to build something temporary and not fixed in order to help those most in need. Naturally, the NIMBY syndrome is rearing it’s ugly head.)

Most of us don't slaughter our own animals. Lots of us don't even prepare our own meals anymore. Our homes, towns, villages, synagogues are built and maintained for us by others. (I wrote, in another musing years ago for a different parasha, of what it might be like if each member family of a synagogue shared the responsibility to actual come in and kindle the ner tamid a few days each year?)

How odd we have become. Think of the irony. We're all too lazy, or too haughty, or think ourselves too important to take on menial tasks. So we relegate these tasks to others. They build our homes, clean our homes, sweep our streets, cook and serve our meals. Then we complain that they are stealing our jobs, and build big fences to keep them out.

Sure, some take pride in keeping up our own homes - mowing, raking, repairing. It's a drop in the bucket, and it is ultimately a selfish act, not a communal one. What can we do together, as a community? Build a playground? Pave our streets? Build a schoolhouse?  (Remember, communities used to have to build one in order to have one.) Consider that a Jewish cemetery was often one of the first communal things Jews help create when they moved into a new community. We take so much for granted these days.)

Imagine, for a moment, a world in which all the inhabitants contributed some talent to the building of the United Nations. Imagine, for a moment, a synagogue built from scratch by the members of its congregation, and maintained by them as well. Imagine a synagogue with no need for maintenance and janitorial staff. (Actually, there sre some congregations out there already employing such a model.)

What about thinking even more globally?  Most of us rely upon others to solve the threats to our planet from global warming, sea rise, species extinction, habitat destruction. Oh, we may contribute in some small way – like recycling, conserving water, etc. And yes, little contributions count. However, the day may ciome when it will really take all of us, actively engaged, to stem the tide of reckless plundering of our planet.

Science fiction authors have long suggested scenarios in which humankind all worked together as onme for the common good. Sometimes, it was in the face of an external threat, like an alien race, or an ELE meteor strike. Other times, it was simply for the sake of getting humanity out into the universe.

I have always preferred to believe in humankind as essentially caring, communal, and contributing. It gets harder every year. The disparity between haves and have-nots, even in so-called first world countries is staggering. There are ocassional moments of uplift. We need more of them. Ther only way they are going to happen is if we make them happen.

If we are going to eliminate (or at least deal with) homelessness, malnutrition, the rape of our planet, etc. we are all going to have to pitch in, just like our Israelite ancestors did for the building of the Mishkan.

So, imagine a world where someone actually had to say "Stop! You're all being too generous."

Ken Y'Hi Ratzon. Ken Y'hi Ratzoneinu.

Shabbat Shalom,


©2016 (portions ©2008) by Adrian A. Durlester

Other Musing on this Parasha:

Vayakhel-Pekudei-Shabbat Parah 5775 - New Heart, New spirit
Vayakhel 5774 - Is Two Too Much?
Vayakhel-Pekudei 5773 - Craftsman. Artisan. Artist. Again.
Vayakhel-Pekude 5772 - Vocational Ed
Vayakhel 5771 - Giving Up the Gold Standard
Vayakhel-Pekudei/Shabbat HaHodesh 5770-Corroborative Detail
Vayakhel-Pekudei 5769 - There Are Some Things You Just Have To Do Yourself
Vayakhel 5768-An Imaginary Community?
Vayakhel-Pekudei/Shabbat HaHodesh 5767-Redux 5760-The Lost Episodes: Too Much of a Good Thing
Vayakhel-Pekudei/Shabbat HaHodesh 5766 - So How Did Joseph Get Away With it?
Vayakhel 5765-The Wisdom of the Heart
Vayakhel/Pekude 5764-Comma or Construct?
Vayakhel 5763-Dayam V'hoteir
Vayakhel/Pekude 5762-Sacred Work
Vayakhel/Pekude 5761 (Revised from 5758)-Craftsman. Artisan. Artist.
Vayakhel/Pekude 5758-Craftsman. Artisan. Artist.
Vayakhel 5760-The Lost Episodes: Too Much of a Good Thing

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