In this week’s Torah portion, two individuals are singled out for special mention for the good they did helping to construct the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that accompanied the Israelites in their journey toward the Promised Land.“ Now Bezalel, son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, had made all that the Eternal had commanded Moses. At his side was Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, carver and designer, and embroiderer in blue, purple, and crimson yarns and in fine linen.” (Exodus 38.22-23)
Countless Israelite men and women gave free will offerings for the Mishkan. These Israelites remained nameless. However, Bezalel and Oholiab were singled out for recognition because their contributions went above and beyond the norm. Their special skill and craft enhanced the community in such a way that, in gratitude, the Torah records their names for all posterity.
Recognizing special contributions to the Jewish community dates back to Biblical times. Throughout our long history, individuals who have enhanced the well-being of the community have been honored for their skills and talents.
Lately, we have begun a conversation at Temple Beth Torah about ways we can recognize individuals who make special contributions that enhance our congregation. I think that there is value in expressing gratitude to those who have done something above and beyond. We are interdependent here at Temple – the initiative and creativity of our members help our congregation thrive. Offering recognition and expressing thanks is worthwhile, for it cultivates in us an appreciation for one another as members of a sacred community. And if honoring others who have enhanced our congregation serves to inspire others to offer their talents and skills, all the better.I know that there are potential pitfalls to initiating a method for honoring members.
There are questions that need to be addressed such as: What are the criteria for honoring a member? Who decides who should be recognized? What is the nature of the recognition that is offered? How often should members be recognized?These are all valid questions. But let not perfection be the enemy of the good. I think at Temple Beth Torah we are capable of figuring out a way to honor our Bezalels and Dans – as well as our Miriams and Naomis.