Community Rabbi Corner, March 20, 2020

Rabbi Alan Silverstein
Congregation Agudath Israel
Caldwell, New Jersey
Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei 

This week’s double parsha – Vayakhel-Pekudei – begins with a timely endeavor. In the aftermath of the divisive spirit of the Golden Calf crisis, we read: “Vayakhel Moshe et kol adat b'nai yisrael” – "Moshe assembled the entire Jewish people."
“Kol adat bnai yisrael” means all ages and stages around the community, and “Vayakhel” means creating a “kahal,” a kehillah. A kehillah of all ages means bonding everyone together in mutual responsibility, looking out for the needs of each and every person.
As our Sages later taught, “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh” – "The fate of all of us is intertwined."

As noted by New York Times writer Bari Weiss, “Dependence is something of a dirty word in a secular American culture that glorifies self-reliance, but Judaism is built on interconnectedness. Nearly everything we do requires a community.”
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Vayakhel remind us of the need for and the blessing of strong communities – notably school and shul. We are enjoined more than ever to be mindful of meeting the needs of folks who face medical symptoms, folks who are in quarantine or self-isolation, folks who are experiencing food shortages and anxiety. We are truly blessed to have one another in our lives.
Our motto must be – physical isolation, yes; social isolation, NO! Let us collectively pray for health and safety with caring for all.