Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Ki Tissaheadshot white 2015cropped

Inclusivity and Belonging

March 3, 2018 – 16 Adar 5778

Dear Friends,

I hope you will join me at services this Shabbat as we celebrate the bat mitzvah of Tzipora Hyman. Mazal Tov to Tzipora and to her entire family!
It is safe to say that most folks do not enjoy being excluded by others. Thankfully, we are becoming more and more aware of the importance of inclusivity in our congregation and in our communities at large. Step by step we look for ways in which we can include people who may have been sidelined in the past. Whether it is by making our new Sanctuary and our bima more accessible, or by taking care to have the best lighting and best sound system in our new building, RST is part of a general cultural trend of working to be as inclusive as possible. This is a very good thing!
However, there are times when, as individuals, we choose to exclude ourselves from much of what goes on around us! Knowing that, as human beings, we all have our limits, we differentiate ourselves from community as a whole. We step aside. We look away. It is natural enough. But, our weekly Torah portion, Ki Tissa, has an extraordinary message for us, acknowledging our human desire to turn away, but spurring us on to come back…
Remember the story of Moses and the Golden Calf?
Moses comes down from Mount Sinai carrying the two tablets with the Ten Commandments etched upon them, only to find that his community has created a Golden Calf. And, his own brother, Aaron, was involved in facilitating the creation of the idol. Moses does what any human being would do! He distances himself from the community. He says to God: These are Your people (not mine!)….
But then…Moses remembers that, ultimately, he is part of these people.
And, Moses prays to God saying: Pardon us for our iniquity and our sin and take us for Your own (Exodus 34:9)!
Why would Moses say: Pardon us? Moses did not sin! He wasn’t even there when the Golden Calf was formed. He was far away on the top of Mount Sinai! So, why did Moses not say: Pardon them for their iniquity and their sin and take them for Your own?
And, why does the Torah tell us this story in such detail?
It must be because this story is eternally relevant. It is as relevant to our lives today as it was to Moses and to the children of Israel in ancient times.
After his initial reaction, Moses realized that his life is bound up in the life of his people. He realized that, much as he would want to distance himself, he is part of a greater whole. And, Moses comes back from his self-imposed exclusion to do his best, on behalf of the people who are ultimately his community.
As we celebrate this Shabbat and look forward to many more celebrations in our community, may we remember that our congregation and our communities may not always be perfect. But, they are ours. And, we are a part of them. Let’s come together. Let’s pray together. Let’s work together to make us the best we can be…And, let’s enjoy the many blessings of inclusivity and of belonging.
Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Gilah Dror