Parshat Vayekhel/Pekudei: Exodus 35:1-40, 12:1-20; Ezekiel 45:16-46:18.
Moses said further to the whole community of Israelites: “This is what Adonai has commanded: Take from among you gifts to Adonai; everyone whose heart is so moved shall bring them gifts for Adonai …” (Exodus 35:4-5)
What gift would you have offered when asked by Moses? Each year when we reach this parashah, I think about what I might have been able to offer up to God. I am not a weaver, a knitter or a woodworker. I am no artist with paint nor pen. Yet, I know how many people have the skills and would be the first to offer them in service or celebration of the community. Perhaps you are one of them.
Instead, I think of my offerings as intangible, and I do not know that Moses nor God would have seen them as true offerings. I am a speaker, a researcher, a holder of too many facts to be able to share them all. For example: When asked to give something for a silent auction years ago, I offered up a session on “active listening.” I spent a few hours with the winner both modeling and explaining the importance of active listening in our daily lives. Active listening is more than just paying attention, it is respecting and really hearing what a person is saying. It shows you understand and care. This requires one to not be thinking about what you want to respond to, which is hard for many of us.
As a parent, I believe one of the most important things I do (other than keep my kids physically safe) is to give each one my full attention when they are speaking. This requires the phone being down, the TV muted, the screen closed. If we want children to become independent, thoughtful, caring adults we have to model that behavior for them. For me, that starts with listening to them, engaging with them on whatever topic they find most interesting at the moment. Perhaps it is the newest computer game (I know too much about “Satisfactory,” which I have never played), the book they are reading or what someone said in class.
Being fully present is not always easy; there is always something else to do, but we never get those moments back. By using the skill of active listening, I know I am encouraging open conversation that will continue as they grow older and no longer think it is cool to talk to their parents.
While Moses and God may have been searching for physical items to be offered as gifts, each one of us has gifts to offer — some are physical, some are intangible; all are important.
Rabbi Simone Schicker is rabbi at Temple B’nai Israel in Kalamazoo