* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
I recently had the opportunity to report on two instances of group enterprise, albeit with radically opposite purposes. Coral, a 15-year-old, came to the television studio to tell me about being a victim of shunning by her classmates. Peer pressure resulted in everyone ganging up on her through distancing and shaming, insulting and humiliating her. Sadly, Coral is not the only one who has suffered in this way. A group has the power to inflict deep wounds on an outcast individual.
But on the very same day I also interviewed Yaniv Meoded, who lost his two children in a traffic accident in which he and his wife were critically injured. Yet Yaniv recovered rapidly, to his doctors' astonishment, and immediately declared that he was launching an initiative to be called "Pashut La'asot Tov" (Simply Doing Good). He asked for the public's support in doing good deeds for the sake of the speedy and complete recovery of his wife, Hodaya. He told me that he believes in the power of the Jewish people when we act together with a common purpose.
Within a few days, the website he had set up recorded more than a million (!) good deeds, all meant to speed the recovery of his wife, Hodaya bat Esther.
This week's Torah portion begins with Moshe Rabbeinu assembling the people. He does this to enlist them for a positive dual purpose: to keep the Sabbath and to build the MIshkan, two revolutionary spiritual projects. There are commentators who see this gathering as a rectification for the unfortunate gathering of last week's Torah portion in which the people assembled to dance around the golden calf. In other words, just as in the two interviews in the television studio, we see the potential force of people coming together. Such force can be exploited to craft a golden calf or channeled beneficially to construct a Mishkan.
Parashat Vayak'hel is an opportunity for all of us to check the purposes for which we assemble, whether as family members, school classmates, or colleagues at work, since such gatherings may have a profound impact, for better or for worse, on the world around us.
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