Parshat Vayakhel תשעו – Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald
At the beginning of our parsha Moshe convenes the nation and instructs them regarding Shabbat and constructing the Mishkan: "And Moshe assembled the entire community of B'nei Israel and said to them: these are the things that G-d commanded to do: six days perform work, and the seventh day will be holy to you, a Sabbath of Sabbaths to G-d." (Shemot 35:1)
The mentioning of the fact that Moshe assembles the nation in order to command them is exceptional: "And Moshe assembled - our Rabbis of the Aggadah say, from the beginning of the Torah to the end there is no parsha that begins with 'vayakhel' (and …assembled) only this one.'" (Midrash Avcir, Yalkut Shimoni Vayakhel, Remez 408) The Sages learned from this that assembling the nation was done according to G-d's command so that the generations will learn to convene the people on Shabbatot and teach them Torah: "G-d said, convene large assemblies and explain the laws of Shabbat in public, so that the future generations will learn from you to convene communities on each and every Shabbat, and enter study halls and teach and instruct Israel in Divrei Torah, what is forbidden and what is permitted, so that My great name will be praised among My children." (ibid) Let us learn from this about the unique communal strategy of Am Israel, and about emerging trends concerning the shaping of the character of the community in Israel, in recent years.
Shabbat and the holidays are "community days", days free from work and weekday bothers, days with an atmosphere that enables spiritual development and growth for the individual and the community: "Shabbatot and Festivals weren't given (to Israel) except so that they may occupy themselves then with Divrei Torah." (Talmud Yerushalmi Shabbat 15,3) However, there is another independent, spiritual purpose to convening for communal Torah learning: "If you assemble each and every Shabbat in synagogues and study halls to study Torah in public, I consider it as if you crowned me King in My world, as Isaiah the prophet said explicitly: and you are My witnesses said G-d and I am E-l, you testify that I am the Lord in the world." (Shibolei Haleket, Shabbat Tzav, in the name of Midrash Tanhuma) Assembling the community around Torah study is analogous to crowning G-d. And it reflects on the purpose of "the Jewish community" which is one of the spiritual cornerstones of Am Israel.
This is one of the fundamental frameworks that received widespread attention in the Jewish world over the generations. Its makeup has changed from place to place and from period to period.
Judaism places very significant spiritual value on the "community" and the "public" as a spiritual value in its own right, as well as the setting for the observance of mitzvot which can only be performed within the framework of the community or a minyan. An individual's belonging to a community has implications on the shaping of his spiritual world, and on the spiritual processes he undergoes.
The Rambam points out the influence of society on the individual, and of the community on its members: "The innate nature of man is that he is led in his thoughts and his actions after his companions and friends, and he acts in the manner of the people of his country. (Rambam, Hilchot Deyot 6,1)
Throughout the generations, the Jewish community convened in the Synagogue for holy matters, and therefore it is called Beit Knesset (convention house) or Knishta in Arameic. (Brachot 6b) This is the place that the spiritual atmosphere that builds the community is created. Of course there is activity in the communities every day of the week, but the main community activity is on Shabbatot and holidays.
We are at the dawn of a new and revolutionary era in which many aspects of life are undergoing transformation. One field which is experiencing radical change is society and community, which now take place in the virtual internet media.
The internet-based social media present new models of virtual friendship and community. There are millions of internet communities worldwide, where the members interact intensively, either socially or around a common interest: professional, political, commercial, etc.
We're talking about virtual communities that did not convene in one place. The members of the community have social activity that in the past occurred only face to face, and which today takes place virtually. The people of the community share opinions, pictures, information and experiences and form personal connections, even though they are spread out over the world and never met each other. Nevertheless, most of the social frameworks are still conventional "communities" of different kinds and in different societies.
In Israel, the field of community is developing in recent years. In the past, the of all ages.predominant model for the community was "the Synagogue community" which existed mainly for the purpose of a communal house of prayer. However, more and more a different model of "community as a spiritual framework" is gaining ground, where a community that engages in additional social activities consolidates. In some of these communities, there is also a trend of working toward spiritual growth for the members of the community,