Sermon by Alex Tessier
March 5, 2016 at Beth Jacob Synagogue
on YOUTH SHABBAT – Parashat Vayak’hel
Meeting a Star
I recently went to a concert in Toronto to see a band play in a relatively small venue. It’s something I do often with my friends, but this time was different than most; I felt a strong connection with this band’s music and I also got to meet the band’s singer, Ben Barlow, as he was getting dinner at the Subway next door.
This is someone I’d seen a million times in pictures on the internet and a few times up on stage, separated by people, and that “invisible barrier” that sometimes separates people on stage from an audience. But to see him, just a regular person, doing regular person things was, well… weird. In my mind, he was larger than life and sometimes we forget that artists, singers, lyricists, are just people, yet they have a big impact.
I said “hi” to him, and he was polite and patient despite probably having been bombarded with people asking for pictures and autographs ever since he walked off stage and no doubt every other night of the tour as well. I told him that I looked up to him and that he was my “idol”.
He looked shocked by this, and with a humble laugh replied: “I’m no idol, man” or something along those lines. We talked for a bit, and then I let him go cause I was sure he must have been hungry and there were other fans waiting to take pictures with him.
But that moment will probably always be stuck in my head. And when I was asked to write a sermon relating to this week’s parasha, I thought that this story was a fitting one to share.
Building the Tabernacle
In this week’s parasha, we hear about the construction of the tabernacle.
So the whole community of the Israelites left Moses’ presence.
And everyone who excelled in ability and everyone whose spirit moved him came, bringing to the Lord his offering for the work of the Tent of Meeting and for all its service…
The Israelites combine their collective talents to make something great: the tabernacle, which would house the Ark of the Covenant.
This is symbolic of the fact that no matter how small someone is, they can contribute to something that is greater than themselves.
Our ancestors participated in the building of this precious thing that was holy and greater than themselves. In the same way, each of us can bring something to this world to make it holy, to make it special, beautiful, and meaningful – to make it good. It’s about creating something that is greater than yourself.
The Torah says:
And all the skilled women spun with their own hands, and brought what they had spun…
And the chieftains brought… stones for the ephod and the breastpiece;…
The Israelites, all the men and women whose hearts moved them to bring anything… brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.
(from Exodus 35:25-29)
By contributing, everyone does his or her part in creating something special in this world. And everyone has something different to give.
Today is also Shabbat Shekalim. It’s the first Shabbat that we start thinking about the holiday of Purim. Esther hid her Jewish identity. At the end of the story, she decides to be true to herself. And because of that decision, she saved a lot of people. She inspired generations.
Our Unique Gifts
When I met Ben Barlow and told him he was my idol, he dismissed it. It hit me that people don’t always realize what they mean to other people. They don’t always realize that what they do, what they create, can have an impact on people. Who they are and what they do can inspire others.
It’s not about trying to be someone you’re not. When Queen Esther was true to herself, that’s what made her a hero and an inspiration. When Ben Barlow plays his music, someth
ing that is very unique to him, that’s what makes him a hero and an inspiration to me.
In today’s parasha, the Israelites each did their part to help create something holy, something that was greater than themselves. Each one gave or did what they could. It was by bringing something of their own unique talents that something beautiful was built.
In the same way, each of us can bring something of ourselves to this world. But it’s by being true to ourselves that we can do that.
It took Esther some time to figure out who she was. It’s okay to take the time to figure out who we are so that we can be true to ourselves. But as I can see from Queen Esther or Ben Barlow, it’s important to understand that what we do in our lives matters even when we think it doesn’t. It matters to someone.
By everyone doing their part, by everyone giving their special gift, no matter how small, it helps create something beautiful, something greater than ourselves.