Recently, The Community Synagogue put on a production of Bye-Bye Birdie. When we started on this project it wasn't clear how things would work out. What was amazing is that over the months that people were working on this production we witnessed a community being built within the community. People really felt an ownership of the project, and it was clear that every member of the theater company felt responsible for the production because they were being empowered to own it and be a part of it. In this way everyone bought into the process and it was a tremendous success; not just because the production was great, but because the community it built was so strong and so wonderful for everyone involved.
In this week's Torah portion we see the importance of getting people to invest in a project and what can happen when people really invest. Previously we had the call from God to Moses for donations for the Tabernacle and the shopping list of items needed for this building project. This week we read that Moses now finally commands the people to start the building. We read: “So the whole community of the Israelites left Moses' presence. And everyone who excelled in ability and everyone whose spirit moved them came, bringing to Adonai their offering for the work of the Tent of Meeting and for all its service and for the sacral vestments. Men and women, all whose hearts moved them, all who would make an elevation offering of gold to Adonai” (Ex. 35:20-22).
In this way we see that everyone was invited to be a part of this project. Everyone bought into the project and had the opportunity to contribute something towards the creation and building of the Tabernacle. And when everyone buys in when everyone is invested in this sort of way we get to the situation that comes just a few verses later when Bezalel and Oholiab, the two people who were leading the project, come to Moses and say to him: “The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed in the work that Adonai has commanded to be done” (Ex. 36:5). This led Moses to tell the people: “Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary” (Ex. 36:6). This might be the one example of a building campaign that exceeded its aim and had to be stopped because it raised too much money.
Why was it so successful? While building the Tabernacle, God's dwelling place on earth, was surely an attractive proposition for the people to be involved in; I think it was successful because it allowed everyone to buy into the project in whatever the way they wanted. Through the investment that each person made there was a way to be engaged and involved with gifts or with their skills. In this way, when the Tabernacle was created and finished it wasn't just that the people had built the dwelling place for God on earth; the people had actually created a community, which was worthy of having God dwell within it.