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Vayakhel and Inspired Leadership

Sometimes the people are right. And sometimes the people are wrong.

We can gather for good. We can gather for bad.

The mob can riot. The crowd can protest.

“The people gathered against Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who shall go before us…’” (Exodus 32)

And the throng cheered. The people jeered with wild abandon. And their leader became more and more animated. He shouted and screamed.

“Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings…and bring them to me.’”

And they can come together for good.

“Moses then gathered (vayakhel) the whole Israelite community… Take from among you gifts to the Lord, everyone whose heart so moved him shall bring them.” (Exodus 35)

In Hebrew the difference between the construction of the tabernacle, detailed in this week’s portion, and the building of the golden calf turns on a vowel. The root is the same. The line between good and bad is sometimes as thin as a breath.

There is another difference between these stories.

It is the difference of leadership.

It is whether the leader follows the people’s fears or inspires them for good.

Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin comments: “We need leadership that is not motivated by and does not fuel fear; that is not led, but which leads.”

Aaron follows. Moses leads.

About Moses the Torah concludes: “Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses—whom the Lord singled out, face to face…” (Deuteronomy 34)

For all the trials and tribulations, the good and the bad that a community or nation must endure, achieving greatness, arriving at the edge of the Promised Land and realizing dreams depends on one thing and one thing alone.

The people require inspired leadership.