Vayakhel/Pekudei: "Good Egg"

You’re hosting this year’s big family seder and it’s Erev Pesach morning.  The phone rings … “Oy!”, you think, “Who’s not coming?”  It’s your mother, who promised to bring four dozen hard-boiled eggs, but has a migraine!!!  Every burner on your stove, every inch of your fridge, and every minute of the rest of today is jammed. 

You frantically send out an S.O.S.-S.M.S. and two friends offer to bring two-dozen each.  Whew! Then, three hours before the Seder, Mom calls back.  “I feel better, dear, I’m coming and bringing the eggs.”  What to say to her?  To your friends?

Morning after morning, people brought freewill offerings for construction of the Tabernacle.  Eventually, the artisans came to Moses and advised that the people were bringing more than needed to complete the work as G-d had detailed.  Moses had this proclamation made throughout the camp: “Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary!”  (Ex. 36:6).

About this verse Rabbi Zelig Pliskin wrote (Love Your Neighbor, 215):

[Obadiah b. Jacob] Sforno [1470-1550, Italy] notes that Moshe did not instruct that the people should not bring any more items, but that they should discontinue doing additional work.  Some of the people had already completed doing work for the Sanctuary and had they been told not to bring what they had already prepared, they would have been most disappointed.  Moses therefore, worded his announcement in a manner that would not cause them anguish. (Shaar bas Rabim, on this verse).

From “Moshe Rabbenu” (Moses, our teacher), we thus learn that, rather than saying to either your mother or your friends “never mind, I don’t need your eggs anymore,” you should instead tell them, “If you haven’t made them yet, you needn’t do so (but if you have, please bring them and I’ll appreciate them).”  

That is, in deciding what – if anything -- to say to others, our first consideration should usually be their feelings.

This morning, I had the opportunity to speak at a Christian college about Jewish scriptural interpretation.  One of the things I told the students is that, for thousands of years, Jews have studied the Bible (Tanakh) – as interpreted and expounded by our sages -- for ethical guidance for everyday behavior ...   Do you?

Resources are vast, but I can recommend the following for your library:

Amsel, Nachum.  The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues

Isaacs, Ronald H.  The Jewish Book of Etiquette.

Luzzatto, Moshe Chaim. The Path of the Just

Morinis, Alan.  Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar

Pliskin, Zelig.  Love Your Neighbor.  You and Your Fellow Man in the Light of Torah

Shapiro, Rami.   Ethics of the Sages: Pirke Avot

Telushkin, Joseph.  A Code of Jewish Ethics, Vol. I: You Shall Be Holy and Vol. 2: Love Your Neighbor

Wagschal, Shaul.  Derech Eretz: A Torah Guide to Proper Behavior in Everyday Life

Many Jews would like Judaism to feel “more relevant.”  There is no better way to accomplish this -- and no more authentically Jewish way -- than learning and adopting Jewish ethics toward everyday decisions and actions.  You'll be glad you did. 

Shabbat shalom! 

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He who guards his mouth preserves his life
Proverbs 13:3