Vayakhel: Diversity and Divisiveness

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Description

[Note: This sermon examines a generic Torah issue and can be used at any time, though it is especially fitting for those parshiot which discuss the revelation at Sinai and the building of the Sanctuary, as well as for Shavuot and Simchat Torah.]

Diversity and Divisiveness

As we think of the impressive tens of thousands that gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo (a quarter of a million by highest count), we realize the sheer power of numbers. Consider then, the text of this week’s Torah reading:

Moses assembled the entire community of the children of Israel and said to them: “These are the words that God as commanded for you to do.”

Moses succeeded in gathering together, in one place, the entire Nation of Israel – 600,000 men and their families so at least 3 million people – people of different backgrounds, diverse and distinct, yet all together … assembled as one community.

The Talmud tells us that anyone who sees an assembly of 600,000 Jews must make the blessing: “Blessed is the Master of Secrets.” Why? Because it takes a Master of Secrets to know what is in each heart of so many people and to bring them together.

Diversity is a most powerful aspect of life. It is driving engine that provides a constant source of fresh energy. But, unfortunately diversity breeds divisiveness, and divisiveness is a plague. And Jewish divisiveness is, without a doubt, our greatest challenge today.

This sermon examines what we can do about it and how we can change the world as a result – a world that needs us to serve as a model, especially with the current upheaval in the Middle East.

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