February 28, 2019


3.01.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s Parashah is VaYakhel. This translates to ‘and he convoked’. Here we are, after the Golden Calf, being called together by Moses. Moses is the messenger of God telling the people that, even after the “sin” of the Golden Calf, they/we have the opportunity to move forward in our lives. WOW!! How unlike humans is God. As we can see in today’s world, one shot and you are out. One oops wipes out 100 gratitudes. We are so quick to get angry and stay angry. “A leopard doesn’t change it’s spots” is the saying that most people tend to believe. Yet, here in our Torah Portion, God is validating that change is possible, T’Shuvah is real and forgiveness is a necessary action for living well. Let me take these ideas one at a time.

In my work as a Rabbi, I have made mistakes and, to the best of my ability, made T’Shuvah. I have also done very well and continue to move forward in both areas of my life, what I do well and what I need to improve on. Yet, people get angry, resentful, etc. I am told that “all you care about is money” from people who have paid nothing for their treatment and are doing well in their lives. This “burden” “debt” that I put on some people, makes me a bad guy and then all the good that I and Beit T’Shuvah has done for them, is forgotten and, even worse, I am  vilified. As any Rabbi can tell you, this type of experience comes with the territory, yet does it have to? The need to stay angry/resentful is so strong, I believe, because if we stay in gratitude then we have to stay in obligation and answer Hineni when called. This goes against our urge to forget those that have helped us attain what we have in our lives. What are you angry about today? Whom are you resentful towards and how has this person helped you? What debts of gratitude do you owe that are still unpaid?

“A leopard doesn’t change it’s spots” comes from the Bible, Jeremiah 13:23. In reading it this morning, I see that it is only half the quote. The rest goes on to say: ” also you are able to do good, you have done evil”. In previous readings of Jeremiah, I have skipped over this verse. I am so excited now. The opening line is only half the story and herein lies the problem. Most of us are only interested in half the story… the half we want to use for our benefit and/or to put someone else down. We don’t want to believe the second half of the verse that we can do good. This is the same as God told Cain in the 4th chapter of Genesis, “sin couches at your door and you can master it”. We are able to write someone else off by using the opening phrase alone. We are able to write ourselves off by using the opening phrase. Yet, when we see the whole verse, when we look at the whole picture, we are able to rise above our baser instincts. We are able to see a new path to wholeness and hope. We are able to change and help others change as well. I am Blessed to have seen and participated in my T’Shuvah and in the T’Shuvahs of so many others. How are you still believing only the first half of the verse from Jeremiah? Whom have you written off through your anger and fear of being hurt again? How are you living your life’s changes and seeing the changes in other peoples lives?

In this Parashah, we are reminded that Bezalel has within him the Spirit of God of wisdom, understanding and knowledge to create/build the Tabernacle. Bezalel is not unique in this aspect of his beingness. We all have have within us the Spirit of God giving us wisdom, understanding and knowledge. Our challenge is to use these attributes to create lives of meaning and purpose and service. We get to live life when we put these attributes into practice. We connect more, we convoke/assemble ourselves more and with more people. We learn how to be in this moment at this time when we are living from these attributes.

Lastly, for this year, we have to practice more forgiveness!! God forgave our ancestors the worst sin, Idolatry. God continues to forgive our practicing of Idolatry in all the forms we find to practice it today. People change all the time. I don’t want to be seen as only the con-man, thief, drunk that I was at one time. I don’t want to be seen and judged by what was, I want to be seen for who I am now. I know that I have evolved over time, yet many people want to pigeonhole me and not see any change at all. I know that there are people who want to live in the past and not see what is today in many different ways. I know that there are people who don’t believe anyone’s T’Shuvah/apology.  I know that there are people who are fueled by resentment and think forgiveness is for “sissys and lightweights, those people, etc.”. I have found that FYOU, forgive you as we learned from my dear friend, Reverend Mark Whitlock, relieves so much stress, anger and wasted energy from my life. How are you still seeing yourself through “old eyes”? What changes can you acknowledge and celebrate in others around you? How are you living FYOU, forgive you, in all of your affairs?

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mark