In connection with the “Come One, Come All” theme at the regional Chabad on Campus Upstate NY Shabbaton 2017, held on the anniversary of our son Moshe’s Bar-Mitzvah Parsha of “Vayakhel-Pekudei” here’s the video and text of his speech on this very theme in 2013.
YouTube Video of Moshe’s Rubin’s “Vayakhel-Pekudei” Bar-Mitzvah Speech (10 min):
Text of speech below:
Good afternoon. Thank you for coming to my Bar-Mitzvah.
Yesterday I read the Maftir and Haftorah of HaChodesh. We also read the double weekly Torah portion of Vayakhel and Pekudei. They are the last two Parshas in Shmos, the 2nd of the 5 Books of the Torah. We concluded the reading with “Chazak, Chazak VNischazek!” – Let us be strong, and let us be strengthened, which is a great encouraging message for everyone, especially a Bar-Mitzvah boy.
More than twenty years ago, in 1992, was the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s last farbrengen before his illness. Just like today, it was close to the end of the month of Adar. The Rebbe spoke then about these two Torah portions: Vayakhel and Pekudei. The Rebbe explained that the names of the Torah portions are a paradox, they are opposites. Vayakhel means to gather together, and Pekudei means to sort and count. Vayakhel symbolizes the big picture, and Pekudei is about the details.
Vayakhel comes first. It tells us about the big general communal effort. But Pekudei comes next, to teach us to appreciate each and every person, and each and every detail.
A big Lego set could be an example. When I was younger a student brought me a huge tub full of Lego. It took me time, but I got to know all those pieces. Hundreds or thousands of pieces go into making a building or spaceship. But if you play with Lego enough, you can look at a finished set and still recognize all the small pieces. Each piece has a different feature, angle and dimension. A few years ago, our Purim theme was “Waldo” and the message of Waldo is: Never get lost in the crowd.
When it came to the Jewish people, the Rebbe often said in Yiddish: “Yeder Yid oon Aleh Yiden” Or in Hebrew he would say “Kol Echad v’Achas MiYisroel“. Both of these expressions mean “each and every Jew”. This highlights the uniqueness and infinite value of each person as an individual, and also as part of the community.
The Rebbe often quoted the verse from Yeshaya: V’Atem Teluktu Echad Echad.. “and you will be gathered one by one…” which is embroidered on our Aron Kodesh right here. One by one, means that each and every person matters.
This pasuk on our Aron Kodesh symbolizes the best of Vayakhel and the best of Pekudei. The word Teluktu or gather together is like the unity of Vayakhel, but the one by one part, celebrates the details and individualism like Pekudei.
Today we dedicated a new Torah at Shabbos House. Thank you to Mr. Bruce Lorence for sponsoring it. A Torah scroll also has both Vayakhel and Pekudei.. of course, they are portions of the Torah. But also – a Torah has more than three hundred thousand letters, but each letter is important, and each letter needs its own white space around it.
Talking about white space around each letter: In the old Shabbos House we had six kids in one small bedroom, Baruch Hashem for the new Shabbos House, we can fit lots of people, but I also get my own space, Baruch Hashem for that, too!
This idea of Vayakhel and Pekudei and what the Rebbe said about it 21 years ago is pretty new to me. I started learning it recently when preparing for my Bar-Mitzvah. But the two concepts are not new to me. I learned these messages first-hand, growing up in Albany and at Shabbos House.
There are 6 boys in my class at Maimonides. In a larger school in a bigger city, you might be able to choose your circle of friends, and do your own thing. But our small class encourages you to get along with each other, value each person, and realize that everyone matters. I’m very happy to have such good friends.
Growing up at Shabbos House also taught me the same lesson, in an opposite way. Baruch Hashem there are so many students who come each year, over the years I remember a lot of people. But it’s not just a blur of faces. I have so many memories of specific students and alumni who made it so special for me at Shabbos House. It was so much fun looking through old pictures for the posters on the windows, because it reminded me of people and of many good times.
I’m named for my great-grandfather Zeide Moshe Rubin, whose yartzeit will be tonight. He was a very warm Chassid, and there are many stories that he told, and many stories about him. Some of you in this room remember him. He would spend a long time davening every day. One reason it took him so long, is that he treasured each and every word. He didn’t rush along the sentences and paragraphs, he said the prayers slowly, relishing one word at a time. Often he would say the same word twice, he liked them so much.
After holidays, the Rebbe would make Havdalah, and then share the wine of blessing with the Chassidim. Once the Rebbe poured Zeide Moshe twice from his cup, and he told my Zeide, “because you say each word of the prayer two times!” The prayer as a whole is like Vayakhel, each word on its own is like Pekudei.
I like to read about history. History also has its Vayakhel and Pekudei. You can talk about time periods, issues or conflicts – that’s Vayakhel – general ideas and concepts. And then there is Pekudei – reading detailed stories about individual personalities who lived during that time. For me, the details and individual stories are much more interesting.
I could make one big Vaykahel-type Thank You! That would be easier, and I wouldn’t leave anyone out. But Pekudei is also my Torah portion, so I have to specifically thank at least some of the individuals for helping me get to where I am today:
Thank you to Zeide Rubin for teaching me the layning, and Jewish history class, for Bubbe Rubin for being my principal and teacher, and for those great cookies during Torah reading practice, too.
Thanks to Zeide Galperin for the Chassidishe stories and to Bubbe Galperin for opening their home to us for NY visits. Thanks to Bubbe Fox for making the trip to be here today.
Of all my uncles and aunts I especially want to thank a few very special uncles, Shimon and Mendel Galperin and Motti and Simmy Rubin, for great adventures at camp, and New York and for treats and learning.
To all my teachers at Maimonides Hebrew Day School, both Judaic and General Studies. From Nursery and Kindergarten up to 7th grade where I am now. I’ve learned a lot, and more importantly, I really enjoyed the learning.
I want to thank my parents. First of all, in a Vayakhel-kind of way, for a great thirteen years – so far! In terms of Pekudei, I want to thank for my father for exciting trips and creative ideas and all kinds of connections, and my mother for delicious food, keeping me focused, knowing what I like, and being on top of everything to make sure it goes right.
I know I ate a crayon when Bassie turned out to be a girl, but I do have great sisters and we do have great times together. The pictures on the windows certainly show that. I also want to thank students and alumni for being my big older brothers in my family of only sisters.
If I missed you in the list of Pekudei specific thank you’s, and I will now do one last Vayakhel general thank you –