Distinctions

          Our parshiyos this week deal with the contributions to the 
Tabernacle, and its construction.  The Book of Shmos (Exodus), concludes 
with the dwelling of the Divine Presence over the Tabernacle.

          After the episode of the Golden Calf, Moshe requested atonement for 
the Israelites.  With great feeling, Moshe requested that the unique 
relationship between G-d and His people continue.  Specifically, he asked 
for three things:  That the Divine Presence dwell with the people; that it 
dwell only upon the chosen nation; and that Moshe be granted knowledge of 
G-d's ways.  Each of these requests were answered in the affirmative.  
(Talmud, Brochos 7a from Exodus 33.)

          It is to be noted that the people were given unique status not 
because of their greatness or innocence; it was precisely after their great 
error that Moshe made these requests.  The Jewish People were taken from 
Egypt not for a national movement, or for the sake of social justice alone, 
but to sanctify G-d's name.  Moshe pleaded with G-d that the Israelites be 
spared and elevated, literally -- for G-d's sake.

          The Zohar states that when Israel was finally told to bring 
donations, there was a departure from the language used when Moshe had 
initially been commanded, in Parshas Teruma.

Exodus ch. 35
4. Moshe said to all the congregation of the children of Israel:  5."All who
 are inspired from the heart should bring donations to G-d: Gold, silver and
 copper..."

          The congregation of the children of Israel indicates that the "mixed
 multitude" were no longer invited to bring their gold.  Those who had been 
found guilty of conspiring to build the Golden Calf, were not allowed to 
contribute to the Tabernacle.

          Such exclusion would today surely bring protests and fiery debate.  
This time, however, it went by, almost without being noticed.  It was 
self-understood that the parties who conceived of the Calf would not be 
welcome to bring offerings so soon.  The mixed multitude had shown that they 
had not fully accepted their new-found faith.  The same materials used for 
an object of worship would not be acceptable in the sanctified area.

          The tribe of Levi, however, had stood up to the mixed multitude.  In 
the coming parshiyos of Vayikra (Leviticus), this tribe will be singled out 
for attending to the holy vessels and the services.  

          In our days, in a desire for fairness, equality and social justice, 
all barriers and distinctions tend to be broken down.  Yet, without clearly 
defined roles, instead of growing up with a sense of conviction and duty, 
children grow up with adolescent crises and identity crises.

          There is again a special maftir this week.  Every year, before the 
beginning of the month in which Pesach occurs (Nisan), Parshas Hachodesh is 
read.  It contains the commandments which were given in Egypt on the first 
of the month.  There, the laws of the Paschal lamb were described.  The 
Israelites were told to eat of the lamb on the fifteenth of the month.  It 
would be roasted, consumed with matzos and bitter herb.

          At Exodus 12:43, the gentile is excluded from eating the Paschal 
Lamb.  The circumcision and the binding agreement which it entailed, was 
prerequisite to the Paschal service.  Rashi, based on the Mechilta, explains 
that it is not only the gentile -- of uncircumcised flesh -- but the 
disbeliever -- of uncircumcised heart -- who is excluded.  Just as Jews are 
physically distinguished with a sign in their flesh, so, too, they are 
distinguished with a sign in their heart -- faith in the unchanging Torah 
and its obligatory commandments.