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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  (rabbi@adathisraelsf.org) has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


 

Relative to other weeks, this week so far has been quite chilled. B”H, our sushi production is successfully back online and we are going to have a nice turnout for our Caribbean Melaveh Malka. Purim is just several weeks away and we are gearing up for all that that entails (stay tuned). 

When I have a less stressful week, I try to catch up on my reading. Interestingly, I found a connection between this week’s parasha and a book I’m reading, which has an important message for all of us to take to heart. The book is called A Tap on the Shoulder and it’s about a person I personally knew, Rav Meir Schuster. 

This week’s parasha, Vayakhel, speaks about the construction of the Mishkan, the portable temple that G-d instructed be built in the desert. When the Torah describes the people who participated in its construction, it states that “And every man whose heart inspired him came,” (Exodus 35:21). Since the tasks required to build the Mishkan necessitated significant skills and talents, where and when did these people develop the ability to perform all that was needed to be done? Ramban suggests that the point of the above quoted verse is to tell us that these volunteers were not experienced craftsmen, rather, they were those whose “heart inspired him” – those who looked within themselves and felt that perhaps they could be suitable for the task. Their “skill set” was simply that they saw a need and wanted to do what they could to help. 

Someone who embodied this idea of digging out one’s hidden talents to serve Hashem was Rav Meir Schuster. He was single handedly responsible for thousands of young Jews finding their way back to Judaism. 

Based on those who knew him from his early years, Rav Meir was painfully shy, had little charisma, and was very reserved. He was the antithesis of what one would expect from someone who would win the hearts of young Jewish backpackers who had found their way to the Kotel. 

It all started one day when Rav Meir was at the Kotel and saw a young backpacker have an emotional experience as he touched the stones. Realizing that this person was seeking something more, but clearly didn’t know where to find it, he approached his first “customer,” offering to teach him about Judaism. 

Rav Meir had no training or previous experience, but when faced with the opportunity to help a fellow Jew reconnect to their heritage, his heart was inspired. This encounter began a revolution. 

We are all born with a myriad of natural talents and unique capabilities. We must recognize that these gifts were given to us with one purpose – to make the world a better place, and thereby, increase Hashem’s Presence in the world. Even if we are lacking a refined skill or any practical experience, we must seek to discover our Gd-given talents that lie within us and bring them out. All we need to begin is a spark of inspiration and with that, we can light up the world.