Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah –Vayak’heil-P’kudei
“Roses are red. Violets are blue. I’m schizophrenic, and so am I.”
We all have multiple personalities. One shows in this venue, and a completely different one shows in another. I will never forget the day that my oldest (then an early teen) went to a friend’s house. The parents called. They needed to tell me something about my daughter. Braced for “God knows what,” I hear, “Your daughter is amazing! She came to visit and started sweeping out our garage!” “Hmmm,” I thought. “She must have the wrong family.” My daughter was/is a lovely young lady but lifting a finger around our house was something unseen and unheard of. I loved that my daughter was so good to her friend’s family, but where was any of that sense of commitment to helping at home?
Many of us have had those moments when the world affirms how good our kids are, even though we don’t always get to see that side of them. Having multiple personalities tailored to diverse situations is part of the human experience. The question, though, is quite simple, even in our inconsistencies, are we as good as we can be in each?
The above question stands as a central focus for this week’s Torah portion. We read, “They spoke to Moses, saying: ‘The people are bringing much more than enough . . .’” (Exodus 36:5) Just last week, we read “Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons, and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:2-4)
Said Rabbi Aba bar Acha, “There’s no understanding the character of this people! They’re solicited for the [Golden] Calf, and they give; they’re solicited for the Mishkan, and they give.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Shekalim 1:1) They gave willingly to support idolatry, and they gave willingly to support holiness.
Rabbi bar Acha was concerned that the Israelites were clueless as to what they supported. Somebody in authority says, “Jump,” and their response was not even, “how high?” They did not ask why? They did not consider the rightness or wrongness of the command or the situation during which they heard the demand – they just started jumping.
Sometimes we support causes for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes we espouse rationalizations for what we do in ways that the rest of our lives could never support. When confronted, we often become defensive trying to support a position that deep inside, we know we can’t. Our tradition describes these moments, “Do your ears hear what your mouth is saying?” Perhaps we are too afraid to admit we were wrong. Perhaps we really believe what we said, even while we have no evidence to back it up. Either way, we end up saying and doing things in one realm that are antithetical to who we are in others.
What’s at stake? Well, we go down this road when we forget that we have a responsibility to act in responsible ways. Every time we let someone else make up our minds for us, when we are willing to make decisions based on what someone else tells us “has to be,” we have abdicated the greatest gift with which we have been endowed: reason.
We must be true to our highest selves in every arena, and to do so, we must always pay attention. We cannot be authentic when we fail in our own consistency; people need to know with whom they are speaking and upon whom they are counting. Where our behaviors and espoused beliefs are out of synch with what is good in the world’s best interest, we lose trust. Trust is all we have.