I am a big fan of the mighty Liverpool football club. Growing up in the 1980s, Liverpool were the dominant team in English football (soccer for my American readers) winning the league and cup on several occasions. Unfortunately, since that wonderful decade, Liverpool have failed to ascend those same heights, and despite winning the UEFA Champions League in 2005, they have not won the league since 1990. There are many reasons, which have been suggested for the decline in form. But over the last decade the blame has generally ended up with the men, who are (theoretically) behind the scenes; the owners, the chairmen and various other ‘men in suits’. The players, who take to the field, representing this great club, have generally been spared from the most vitriolic complaints and outbursts.
To have a successful football or soccer team you need to have the right players on the pitch, but you also need the right coaches, management and ownership. There are a variety of ways in which people contribute to the success of a sports team, and in some cases, it has nothing to do with actually playing the game.
This week as we read about the building of the Tabernacle (the Mishkan) in the wilderness, the men who are primarily involved are Bezalel and Oholiab, who we were introduced to last week. But they are not the only ones who will be a part of this communal building project: ‘Let, then, Bezalel and Oholiab and all the skilled persons whom Adonai has endowed with skill and ability to perform expertly all the tasks connected with the service of the sanctuary carry out all that Adonai has commanded’ (Exodus 36:1). Certain Israelites possessed the God-given talents which meant that they could play a part, directly, in building the Tabernacle. Some of them even took care of the behind the scenes management of the raw materials: ‘They took over from Moses all the gifts that the Israelites had brought, to carry out the tasks connected with the service of the sanctuary’ (Exodus 36:3).
One might imagine that they were the only ones involved with the building of the Tabernacle. But this is not the case. After the request God made, through Moses, for him to ‘accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved’ (Exodus 25:2), the people responded enthusiastically. And this week, the artisans engaged in the actual building had to tell Moses: ‘The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed in the work that Adonai has commanded’ (Exodus 36:5).
For the building of the Tabernacle an implicit partnership was required between the Israelites as a whole, and the artisans as a specific group. While the artisans were responsible for building the Mishkan, they required the donations of the people to actually have anything to construct. Only with the peoples’ enthusiastic response, was it possible for the Tabernacle to be built. Some people were able to contribute with their hands and their skills, while others made contributions of products and the items necessary for the Tabernacle. Together they all felt a shared ownership and investment in this House of God.
It is true for teams like Liverpool, and it is true for our Jewish community as well. Some of us contribute to the community by working professionally for it, other contribute by giving of their time as volunteers, and others give of their money to support the work of the community. The survival of the Jewish community relies upon the contribution of each one of these groups. Together we were able to build a Tabernacle in the wilderness, together we maintained the Jewish community and together we are continually building and developing the Jewish community for tomorrow.