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the communal tapestry

Wednesday, 2 March, 2016 - 9:03 pm

Many a speech begins with "Today, we have gathered together, many people ...." The crux of such a message is that different people, with different ideologies, backgrounds and feelings have come together in one place to do, serve, support....

Congregate is another word used when referring to people gathering together. A group congregates and creates a congregation. A true and efficient congregation is when we each put our "self" aside and become one with the congregation and community.

Since our language actively shapes our reality, it is important to see the difference between these two words. One is distinct entities supporting a cause, whereas the other is putting our individuality on the side for the collective good.

There is a story told of a Chassid who complained to the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe): “Everyone in shul is stepping on me”. The Tzemach Tzedek wisely told him: “If you would not spread yourself out over the entire shul, no one would step on you". Spreading yourself out is generally explained as being egotistical. The Tzemach Tzedek was saying that if you take a step down from your ego and are more self-effacing, you would not be stepped on. 

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about building a home for G-d, the Mishkan. The portion starts with the verse: Moses caused the people to congregate. The Torah is exact in its wording. The word Vayakhel, congregate, is used because the goal of the Mishkan was for Hashem to be able to express Himself, in His oneness, amongst the multiplicity of the world. The Mishkan was built through each individual’s unique contributions; creating a communal structure for G-d.

All congregations are built the same way: each individual contributes their uniqueness to the beautiful tapestry called community.

Have a great Shabbos and thank you for being part of our community and adding your color to the tapestry,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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