Jewish Disability Advocacy Day 2019 Dvar Torah
I was privileged to deliver the following dvar Torah at Jewish Disability Advocacy Day 2019, February 26, 2019 in Washington, D.C.
Shalom friends! It is an honor and privilege to be with you all this morning as we gather for Jewish Disability Advocacy Day, a time for us as Jews who care deeply about the issues impacting all Americans with disabilities to make our voices heard. Rooted in the values that so animate our tradition—we’re all created in the Image of God, we all have inherent worth and value, we are here to lift up those legislative initiatives that will enable a greater number of Jews with disabilities to exercise self-determination and live full and rich lives, as we know we can. In this week’s parsha, Vayekhel, we are commanded to bring gifts for the building of the mishkan or portable sanctuary in the desert. We saw this idea a few parshiot ago, in Parashat Terumah as well. Why do we see this twice? Are we just recapitulating the building instructions for the mishkan? Perhaps. Or, perhaps we are meant to take something else from this repetition. Our rabbis and sages believed that there was no redundancy in the Torah. Why, then, does the Torah insist upon telling us again that we all need to bring gifts and exactly which gifts to bring?
Every detail of the mishkan is tended to just so. This communicates clearly to us that everything, down to the smallest detail, infinitely matters. God would not have a sanctuary without every detail mattering. Every person must bring their gifts because every person matters. We all bring those gifts, those talents that are irreplaceable and unique. Every community is the sum of its parts. People with disabilities have experienced incredible systemic and social exclusion. Our Torah reminds us that in a culture in which the gifts of some are valued over the gifts of others, all of our gifts matter, all of our wisdom matters, all of our knowledge matters and matters infinitely.