Making a seating chart is possibly the most difficult part of preparing for class. Organizing tables for my wedding seemed easy compared to the Tetris game of names when deciding who will work best with whom and how to organize the classroom so that learners are in the optimal position for learning. There are entire lists of criteria to keep in mind: who fights, who chats, who needs to be up front to see the board, who needs to be in the back because they prefer to stand. Then comes the partnering. I have to think of each student, their strengths, their challenges, their level of patience and their work ethic. If one of these pieces is off, the entire seating chart can crumble. I love the challenge of getting to know the students well enough to know exactly where they should be in my room and making sure that every single student is included, comfortable and ready for the best learning opportunity.
Specific tasks require specific people on the team to ensure the best results. God picked Moshe as the leader because he possessed a specific quality that God wanted, and God included Aaron as Moshe’s counterpart to even out the team. This week we read parshat Ki Tissa, which is filled with group think and missteps. The parshah begins with the commandment to give a half shekel, instructions on preparing the oil and incense for sacrifices and ends with the creation of the Golden Calf, the punishment of the people, Moshe pleading with God for a second chance, a second set of tablets and Moshe radiating after being in God’s presence. Hidden within the depths of this turning point for the Israelites is the appointing of Betzalel and Ohilev as the artists for the building of theMishkan, the Tabernacle.
The end of chapter 30 and the beginning of chapter 31 instruct us on the types of metals to be used in the Mishkan, the proper variety of pleasant incense and unpleasant fragrances and the specific leaders in the creation of this Mishkan. God selects Betzalel from the tribe of Judah because he has been “endowed with a divine spirit of skill, ability and knowledge in every kind of craft.” God also appoints Ohilev of the tribe of Dan to help Betzalel in this creation. A Medieval midrashic commentary points out that Judah is the largest and most prominent of the tribes, and Dan is the smallest tribe. By choosing a partnership from these tribes, God had made sure that the largest, smallest and in between parts of Israelite society were involved in the creation of theMishkan. And, by including the requirement for pleasant and unpleasant smelling fragrances in the ceremony, God has in a way taught us that agreeable and disagreeable people are also necessarily included in the community.
Ki Tissa means “when you will raise up,” signifying the raising up of our community when we value each other for the special gifts we all offer. The parshah teaches us about inclusion and team building. Ultimately, if we want our project, lesson or team to succeed, we must start with a foundation of balance and characteristics that complement one another. While the process of considering who works best with whom takes more time, and working with a variety of people takes more patience, the end result reflects the harmony of a well balanced team.
ללמוד To Learn: ללמד To Teach: God has serious trouble in this week’s parshah when the Israelites and their impatience leads to a blatant disregard for the 10 Commandments and shows a lack of faith in God. We learn that God was so angry that He wanted to destroy the entire nation, and yet Moshe stood in God’s way to protect the people from God, and God from His own anger. Who is the “Moshe” that helps you maintain control and perspective when you’re ready to rage? How can we act as one another’s Moshe?
לשמור To Keep לעשות To Do: The parshah begins by asking each person over the age of 20 to give ½ a shekel as part of the communal census. The word used in the text is ונתנו and they should give. This word is special because it is a palindrome, spelled the same way forwards and backwards. The rabbis teach that this is because giving is cyclical and we need to give because we never know when we will need to receive. As you enter Shabbat, make sure that you, as a family are making the gift you can to continue to mark your role in taking care of the community.