Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Health Dose of Torah–T’tzaveh

Moving to the north has brought its share of blessings and challenges. One challenge that I never saw coming (but should have) was that when someone yells, “Rabbi!” they may not be talking to me. In Florence, South Carolina or Lexington, Kentucky, there was a real dearth of Rabbis. The odds were that if someone yelled that word, they were talking to me. Up here, we exist on almost every street corner. I am only one of hundreds in this part of the world. It has taken me a while to not immediately responding, “Yes?”

Likewise, we all know this scenario. Someone shouts, “Hey, you!” The whole room turned around to look in the direction from where the voice came. A sole face looked back at them. “To whom were you addressing?” shouted one voice in response? “I guess all of you since each of you turned.” It’s not like, “Hey David or Debi,” it was just “Hey you!” Each of us has a name, yet, in that moment, each of us forgets our identity and becomes simply, “you.” Are we conditioned to believe that any time an ambiguity happens in conversation, that we are the subject of who is being spoken?

How many times do we walk into a conversation and either assume that they are talking about us, or interrupt in such a way to make sure that they are not? Basically, we are insecure people in need of affirmation and validation, and sometimes, at any cost. We need to know who the “you” is, and whether or not it is us.

This week’s Torah reading is the only weekly portion of the cycle that never includes Moses’ name. Torah depicts God giving lots of instructions to an anonymous “you.” The sages argue, “Of course God speaks with Moses, who else?”

Who else? Well, the text involves finishing the nuances of Tabernacle worship. To whom else would God be talking? Maybe, just maybe … us? Wait, yes, I said it. The “hey you” might actually mean “you.” Maybe the problem is not that we think the world is talking about us.

Maybe the problem is that we are not listening. I think we should be conditioned to turning our heads when the “Hey, you!” statements fly in the air. When the prophets of scripture spoke, they spoke of “you.” When the heroes of history have spoken words of challenge and blessing, it was to “you.” When someone screams for help, they scream for “you” to answer. So, when God is giving us the details of how best to respect the gifts of our community, God is speaking to “you.” When we are more caught up in not being the object of a conversation or making sure that we direct the conversation, we create barriers that keep us from the opportunities to hear ourselves being “called.” When Moses saw the burning bush, our sages teach that it was burning for anyone to see. Only Moses stopped to investigate. When God called Abraham, our tradition debates whether God called Abraham or whether God called and Abraham was the one who acknowledged hearing it. The Biblical paradigms keep teaching us that we are always subject to hearing God’s voice in our lives, only some of us listen with the intent of hearing God. “Hey you, feed the hungry.” “Hey you, shelter the homeless.” “Hey you, teach people.” “Hey you, love your neighbor.” The poet John Donne instructed us that if we are involved with humanity, then when the bell tolls; when someone yells ‘Hey you;” don’t ask for whom it tolls. It tolls for you. Let’s listen for our call to service; let’s get to work. Shabbat shalom.