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Complex Yet Possible

03/11/2021 12:54:04 PM


During the early months of the pandemic, and probably as a result of our hyper focus on toilet paper supplies, I set out to create a contraption of sorts with the kiddo where a ball would travel through a complex path through connected toilet paper rolls. Armed with duct-tape, I attached these cylindrical pieces to the wall at gentle slopes, with the hopes that gravity would bring the ball from the top to the base without the ball jumping the track. Instead of allowing the ball to take a simple path, I felt compelled to make the contraption more complex. What if I cut the cylinders in half? What if I shortened their length? Could I make the contraption turn a corner? (Clearly, I was doing this more for me than my son). What I ended up with was a complicated system of tunnels, drops, twists and turns. The only thing left to do, was to stand on the chair and drop the ball, and hope it all worked…

This moment of hope, when it isn’t clear whether the thing you’ve been working on will play out as you had imagined it in your head, is the same feeling I get at the end of the book of Exodus. During these past few chapters and parshiyot, we have been given the instructions and blueprints for the building of the tabernacle, and it is only now in Vayakhel-Pekudei when the building has commenced and finished. All the fixtures are constructed. All the sewing, smelting, crafting, and building is done. The structure is all put together and it is time to metaphorically turn the whole thing on. Will it work? Were the Israelites able to capture what God had originally planned?

Indeed, it does! As, the Book of Exodus ends, we read that a cloud rests on the tabernacle and the glory of God fills the space. What a sigh of relief. If only my toilet-paper roll contraption worked as well as it did in my head! In a way, this second half of Exodus is a tale about the possibility of a community coming together to execute God’s will. Perhaps the tabernacle was built correctly because the right people with the right skills were doing the right things. Or maybe their success came from the community’s willingness to support and work together. Alternatively, their success could be attributed to Moses’s leadership and communication that conveyed the appropriate instructions and guides to the people. Either way, we learn that just because a project is big and complex, doesn’t mean it is doomed to fail.

As we find ourselves on what potentially is the tail end of the pandemic, we similarly are finding ourselves holding our breaths and hoping everything works out. It’s a complex process of remaining safe while reopening our economies. We recognize that it requires cooperation from a lot of people, organizations and governments. But just because it is a complex process, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. It is my prayer that like the Israelites at the end of the Book of Exodus, we will have the evidence that our efforts have succeeded, and that we will find ourselves in a new chapter of our lives.  

Shabbat Shalom

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784