Va-yakhel-P’kudei – Come Together, Right Now…

Stephen Richer
Come Together, Right Now…
Exodus 35:1 – 40:38

Sadly, this week’s double Torah portion marks the end of the book of Exodus.  True, this doesn’t seem so bad when you consider that we spent most of the book slaving away in Egypt.  But the story of Moses has been my favorite ever since I saw Charlton Heston turn his staff into a snake that then destroyed Pharoah’s snakes (I imagine the English literature majors have a field day with this episode).  And I don’t know of any amazing movies made from the next three books.

This concluding Parsha is unexpectedly tame.  After parting the red sea, eating manna in the desert, building a golden calf, and watching Moses throw down the original tablets in a fit of temper, it seems like the book should have concluded with a duel between a wet and angry Pharoah and a cool and collected Moses.

But instead, the Parsha begins with the decree of Shabbat, “Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have sanctity, a day of complete rest to the Lord; whoever performs work thereon [on this day] shall be put to death.” (Exodus 35:2) and then launches into a lengthy how-to guide for constructing a tabernacle.

Why does the Parsha transition so quickly between two seemingly unrelated subjects? The sages–and more directly, Rabbis Teitelbaum and Schwersenski–tell us that the Tabernacle and Shabbat run parallel courses.  The construction of the Tabernacle is a guide to Shabbat.  Anything that is done to create the Tabernacle is prohibited on the day of rest (and this is where we get the 39 categories of no-nos).

But what about those of us who aren’t carpenters and aren’t too terribly concerned with the prohibitions of Shabbat?  What do we get out of the Parsha?

Two things.  First, the Parsha teaches us that Shabbat is the home of the Jewish people.  More than Israel, and more than our local synagogue, Jews are at home when the sun sets on Friday.  As Dr. Barry W. Holtz of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) says, “the Tabernacle is God’s dwelling place”–we are constructing the Tabernacle for God, and we construct the Sabbath for ourselves.

If we continue to draw lessons from the construction of the Tabernacle, then we learn the second lesson: that Shabbat is a communal event.  The Portion more than once refers to the Tabernacle as the “Tent of Meeting.” (e.g. Ex. 40:2)  And the creation of the Tabernacle requires the work of the “entire community” (Ex. 35:20), specifically Bezalel, Oholiab, and Ithamar.  Similarly, Shabbat is not a one-man show.   We each have our parts, whether it is lighting the candles, cutting into the Challah, or simply showing up with a bottle of red wine.

Jews are often stereotyped as solemn individuals–staying late at work or pouring over books in the early morning–but “no man is an island,” and on the Sabbath, God strongly encourages us to celebrate life, and what’s a celebration without a friend or two?

Shabbat Shalom!

Newsletter 2

Jewish Compatriots,

Hello on behalf of Gather The Jews.  We fortunately finished up the creation process before Friday night, but unlike other previous creators, we didn’t do everything perfectly, so I hope you will be patient with us as we continue to improve the website.  Of primary importance to us is the calendar–we want this to be a useful, user-friendly, and comprehensive device.  On this note, we encourage you to notify us of any Jewish events that you do not see posted on the calendar.  Thank you.

So… Ready for another exciting Jewish week?  If not, then I suggest you first watch this video:

For more info, or to see the Jewish guy and girl of the week, go to

Special Discounts Brought To You By Gather The Jews:

– Go to the national AIPAC Policy Conference!  This three day event will feature many top diplomats and officials from Israel and United States.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be speaking on one night.  Special discount available to those who are Birthright Israel alumni and contact me immediately. Tickets are normally $500, but this opportunity reduces them to $150

– See the play “Andy Warhol – Good for the Jews?” at the DC JCC on Thursday, March 18, at 7:30.  Tickets are being offered at a special discounted rate of $18 (normally $42) to the first 15 people to register through Gather The Jews.  Contact me if you are interested.

Shabbat Options

What: 6th in the City Shabbat: The Sabbath Manifest.
Where: 6th and I Synagogue
When: 6:30 pm – Pre-service socializing, drinks, and appetizers 7:15 pm – Shabbat service, followed by drinks and dinner
Theme: Sixth & I is teaming up with Reboot to empower you to take the Sabbath back. Sabbath Manifesto, a national project designed to slow down lives, is based on 10 core principles.
More info:

What: DC Minyan Shabbat
Where: DC JCC
When: 5:54 Candle lighting. 6:00 – 7:00 services
Theme: DC Minyan is a traditional egalitarian Jewish community. Seating is separate for men and women without a mechitzah.

What: Adas Israel March Madness Shir Delight
Where: Adas Israel
When: 7:00 to 9:00
Description: Sport your favorite college colors at our special March Madness Shir Delight. Your favorite college food will be served. FREE oneg happy hour starts at 7PM followed by Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv services at 8PM.
More info:!/event.php?eid=391544113664

Featured Events

Thursday, March 10, 2010 – Joel Pollak Fundraiser
The Young Jewish Leadership PAC of Washington D.C. is hosting a fundraiser for political candidate Joel Pollak who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives.  The event will take place tomorrow (Thursday) from 6:30 to 8:00 pm at the Town and Country Lounge inside the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue.  To find out more about Joel, visit To RSVP for the event, email me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010 – Run Club
Join Sixth and I at Foggy Bottom Metro at 11:00 am for a nice morning run! More info:


–         Want the whole community to know what a mensch or mayven you are?  Apply to be the Jewish guy/girl/couple/business of the week! Convince us that you’re the best by sending a short email to info

–         Interested in describing your thoughts in more than 5 sentences and a picture (per the above)?  Then write for Gather The Jews!  Gather The Jews is now recruiting writers for its blog, “The Schpiel.”  For more information, write to

–         We are always looking for new ways to grow and serve the DC Jewish community.  If you have an idea, a suggestion, or want to help gather Jews, please let us know by writing to

What it means to be part of GTJ.

Aaron Wolff on behalf of the GTJ Leaders
What it means to be part of GTJ.

We have all been talking about the website to everyone we know (both Jews and non Jews).  In the past few days, we have gotten hundreds of people coming to the site with thousands of return visits!  But this site is not about the numbers, it is about the community.

We are continuing to build the community of Jews in DC.  What is great about DC Jews?  In this city, we have some of the most creative, resourceful, innovative, and talented Jews in the world.  And why not have a place where we can feature artists, authors, physicians, politicians, lawyers, athletes, community organizers, teachers, Rabbis … whoever you are and whatever your passion may be?

Gather The Jews is the place where resources are shared and community networks are built.  Gather the Jews is a site for all DC Jews.

Learn about where to go for Shabbat, Passover Seder, meet the highlighted members of the community, and share your photos of friends.

The Jews are Gathering…  and we are glad that you are a part of it.

No Post On Saturdays?

Stephen Richer
No Post On Saturdays?

At the beginning of the month, the United States Post Office proposed a few measures to reduce its projected $7 billion yearly deficit.

Among the most popular plans: end mail service on Saturday.

I don’t know anything about the economic efficiency of such a measure, and I’m a big fan of Saturday mail (especially now that I’m waiting to hear back on school applications), but I celebrated the news on two accounts.

1. It highlights the gross inefficiencies of governmentally mandated monopolies.
2. It suggests a growing power of Jews in America.

Will we finally take back the Sabbath? Parity with Christianity? We’ve long been titans in academia, Hollywood, banking, business, retail clothing, etc, but do we really have such clout at the Post Office?

Jews are not unfamiliar with the power strings of the Post Office. Preston Robert Tisch, a famous Jewish businessman (Loews and the New York Giants) served as United States Postmaster General for some time. But whether it is because we don’t mesh with the allergens of the outdoors, dogs, or the baseball caps that the Postal infantry is exposed to, we’ve never thoroughly infiltrated the Post Office.

What changed?

Well, perhaps you’ve already spotted my hitherto flawed reasoning. I said that the Post Office is taking steps to reduce the debt it has incurred as a result of its inefficiency, but at the same time I suggested that Jews are the real driving force behind the “no Saturday” proposal. How can it be both factors that are forcing the decision–the economics and the Jews?

Well, what if the Jews forced the economic situation that caused the Post Office to resort exigent measures? The Post Office is in especially bad shape this year because of the economic downturn. More than one highly credible source has suggested that the Jews of Wall Street caused the economic downturn… Could this have just been an elaborate ploy to cripple the Post Office?

The internet is the other main culprit in the Post Office’s economic hardships. Tim Berners-Lee and Al Gore (neither Jewish) are popularly credited with the creation of this handy device. But maybe Jews only propped them up as “poster boys” so that the eventual demise of the Post Office would not be linked to Jews. Or, better yet, maybe the internet of Lee and Gore was secretly supplanted with a second, stronger and faster internet created by the Jews, and it was this internet that really drove the Post Office into debt.

Did George Bush make a mistake when he famously spoke of the “internets” in the 2004 debate with John Kerry? Or did he simply know something we didn’t? Whatever the reason, I hope the “no Saturday” proposal wins the day so that I can soon be celebrating my mail free Saturday afternoons with a nice bowl of cholent.

Note: Not one word of this essay beyond the words “mandated monopolies” should be taken seriously.

God’s Entrepreneurial Style : Divine Fundrai$ing

God’s Entrepreneurial Style : Divine Fundrai$ing
Joshua Kaller
Ki Tisa – “When you take the sum of the children of Israel according to their number, then they shall give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, when you number them; so that there be no plague among them.”

There is no better way to get people’s money than scare them, and certainly with a plague. Honestly, if a man (or woman) shows up with a taut rubber band, a pair of plastic scissors, and one of those lettuce cutters and asks for my wallet, I will most likely dish it out and run like a rabbit in the opposite direction. (May this not be an invitation for abuse!)

In this weeks Parsha, we see G-d  using a couple of tactics to raise funds for his holy mission. It’s either give or be plagued. I think this is a great strategy for future Entrpreneurs.

Holy Fundraising Tip Number One: Imbue your donors with fear and divine repurcussions if they don’t pony up the cash. Plagues like rashes, boils, and burning bellies are always a good go to for plague choices.

Now, this was G-d’s first line of attack. Knowing that if fear is the only motivation, he might lose some long term donors. And let me tell you, if you’ve ever meet the Goldsteins of Upper Virginia, scare them once with plague, they give; scare them twice with plague, they give; scare them three times – Holy Moly they will be a plague unto you!

So, in order not to feel their wrath, he made sure that the money was going to a good source. Where? This time the money was being used to set up services in the Tent of Meeting (The Moveable Divine Command Center). Now, this is not the first time G-d used this fundraising strategy. He used the Count-Up to Cash-In strategy previously when soliciting funds to make the Sockets for the Tent of Meeting, and also to pay for Communal Sacrifices.

Holy Fundraising Tip Number Two: Count-Up to Cash-In. Establish a counting of your people and make them pay all equally for their place in that space. Ensure that the money goes to something that everyone can use.

We see that G-d is a great Executive Director. If your in the non-profit world, then you understand the difficulties it is in these time in order to make rain fall, and secure your funding for the following year. Well, my fellow social entrepreneurs, why don’t you take a page out of the oldest fund raising book in publication, and sprinkle a little fear into your donors.

This reminds me – Gather The Jews will be hosting a “Counting Party” and you BETTER BE THERE!!!…..or else G-d help you!

More Details to come.

Be in peace.