This Shabbat we read two parashas – ‘Vayak’hel and Pekudei’. We read about the establishment of the Tabernacle – the temporary temple which accompanied the people of Israel in their wanderings, after exodus from Egypt, until the establishment of the permanent temple in Jerusalem. We will also read an additional parasha which explains about the preparations for Passover and the Passover sacrifice that they would eat during the time of the Temple in a unique family unity.
The tabernacle, and afterwards, the temple, constituted the spiritual center for the people, and all the legal and halachic decisions were made by the court that was established next to the temple.
The first parasha, which describes the establishment of the Mishkan is called “Vayak’hel”, from a Hebrew root word meaning gathering and unity. To teach us that a spiritual center which is not founded on unity, has no value, nor does it have the right to exist, our sages explained that hatred was the reason that led to the destruction of the temple.
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, at the beginning of the 20th century, wrote:
“If we are destroyed, and the world is destroyed with us, by needless hatred – we will return to be built, and the world with us will be built, by gratuitous love.”
It seems that these lessons relate particularly to the exceptional situation which the State of Israel has been experiencing in recent weeks.
A small percentage of people on both sides of the political spectrum fan the fire of hatred and discord that also grips the innocent and good people who panic unnecessarily and are swept into a whirlwind of emotions which threatens the integrity of our nation. Slandering the State of Israel in the world provides fuel for our enemies and shakes the faith of our lovers in the righteousness of our way.
The month of Nissan, is the month of redemption, and a time of soul searching, for us to think whether we may have abandoned our spiritual values, our unity and sense of community, giving excessive preference to our sense of individualism.
The family gathering around the Seder table will remind us where our true strength lies, the values which are important to us, and those that we are really proud of – not a career and not financial or political success, but the values of spirit, faith, morality and family. These are what will keep us as a strong nation for many generations to come.
Rabbi Refael Cohen