D’var Torah on Israel, our Holiest of Projects

Thoughts following a Federation Mission to Israel

In a recent parsha, we were arriving to the end of the Book of Exodus, and I was fascinated by one particular part of the story. The people have received the instructions for the building of the mishkan, the tabernacle in the desert, and Moses calls on the people to bring forth offerings for the materials that will be needed – gold, silver, and other metals, linens of all kinds, precious stones, animal skins. This is the story of the first ever annual campaign.

And, lo and behold, it is an amazing success. The offerings come and come and come. Eventually, the men who Moses put in charge of the work come to him and say: “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which G-d has commanded us to make.” In today’s parlance, we would say that they reached the goal. What do they do now? They could build a bigger mishkan, or keep accepting offerings and put the extra material aside for some other project.

But, instead, Moses issues this order: “Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.” So, the people were restrained from bringing more. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all of their work, and, in fact, too much.

I didn’t tell this story to make a point about campaigns, but because it illustrates to me that central to Judaism is the simple idea of enough, that we can have enough, that more is not always better, even in the most holy of projects.

And what project is more holy than Israel, the building of the Jewish state, where Jews can live as a free people in our land?

During our recent Federation Mission to Israel, we met with people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who seemed to be striving for an outcome in which their side got it all, rather than simply enough. People who would be willing to risk everything for the maximum result rather than come to terms with what could be enough.

In Jerusalem, we met with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders of One Voice, an organization working to strengthen the moderate voices on both sides of the conflict. Moderate voices that could move both sides to a solution that was enough, even if it was not all.

I hope that we can encourage these voices that see the holiness in the idea of enough.

And I hope for us, for each of us and for our community, that we will always have enough, and that we will have the wisdom to know when we have it.

Susie Sorkin, Arthur Slepian, and Sarah Persitz
Susie Sorkin, Arthur Slepian, and Sarah Persitz in Tel Aviv

Arthur Slepian is the executive director of A Wider Bridge, a member of the Federation's board of directors, and chair of its Israel and Global committee.

From March 6 - 11, 2017, the Federation’s Board of Directors and Israel Committee participated in a Mission to Israel to learn about the work of the Federation’s partners and grantees in Israel, who are actively and heroically building a pluralistic, democratic, and egalitarian society.


March 30, 2017


Arthur Slepian