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Wednesday, 6 March, 2019 - 5:39 pm


At the beginning of the forming of the Jewish nation, shortly after the Torah was given at Mount Sinai and while the Jews were in the desert, Moshe gathered the entire nation together to tell them about building a Mishkan – sanctuary – as a place for Hashem’s revelation.  Moshe spoke to the people many times.  He taught them the Torah and guided them in all matters of life, including preparing them to build the Land of Israel and create a legacy for all time.  But it was rare that he gathered the entire nation together.  This was one of those times.  Building a Mishkan is not just about a house.  The whole idea of the Mishkan, a portable sanctuary that travelled with the Jews in the desert, and later the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, is to bring the presence of Hashem into the world; to transform the wood, gold and other physical materials into a receptacle for holiness.  This is the purpose of the entire creation, and this is our mission on earth, to harness the physical and use it for holy purposes, or in the words of Chassidus, to make a home for Hashem below.  This is something that every one of us must do.  There is not a single person, scholar, simpleton or in between, who does not have the privilege and responsibility to do this work.  Moshe therefore gathered the entire nation together to tell them about this great Mitzvah, to emphasize this fact that applies to everyone. 

I was ruminating about this the other day on my trip back from Hawaii where I went for the Bris of my grandson.  As I wrote last week, my daughter and her husband, Rabbi Levi and Fraidy Gerlitzkty run a Chabad House on the Big Island.  In a place with very few residents in general, and certainly very few Jews, people came together to celebrate this mitzvah that represents the bond that we have with Hashem.  I was thinking about the fact that just as at the beginning of our nation, we all needed to be gathered by our leader Moshe to include every one of us in the Mishkan, so now, at the cusp of the beginning of the new era of Moshiach, the leader of our generation, the Rebbe, set out to gather every Jew to prepare for the final redemption and the building of the eternal third Temple.  The difference is that Moshe physically gathered a captive audience surrounded by miraculous clouds in the desert, and the Rebbe had to reach out to spiritually gather individuals scattered literally all over the world.  From New York to Palo Alto to Hawaii to the Amazon rain forest and the farthest places in Africa and Asia, the Rebbe’s emissaries are doing the job of “gathering” all Jews, as we approach the physical in-gathering that will be completed when Moshiach comes.

Another event that happened this week drove this point home.  The CTeen Shabbaton brought together Jewish teens from all over the world to celebrate their Jewish identity.  What an incredible show of Jewish pride in today’s world where many Jewish teens find it difficult to navigate the new anti-Semitic environment.  For many of these teens who have no formal Jewish education, this was a life-altering event.  You can see a little of the program here, it’s worth watching.  Vayakhel is the name of the Parsha.  It means “He [Moshe] gathered.”  We are doing it again, this time under more difficult circumstances, but it is just as important.  You can be part of it.  Reach out to another Jew and tell them that they are part of it, that they have a blessed mission.  Every single one is important.  They may not know and might very well be thrilled to find out.

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