Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple


This Shabbat brings us to the end of the book of Sh’mot.

Its final sidrot are full of minute architectural detail. The tabernacle in the wilderness has been reported on, it seems, to the last wooden board and the smallest nail and screw. Some would say it is all inexpressibly dry and boring.

Yet in any important project every detail counts, every individual matters.

Who were the individuals involved in constructing the tabernacle?

Betzalel, the ideas man, full of enthusiasm. Oholiav, the organiser and craftsman able to implement the grand ideas.

“Kol nediv lev” – all the generous donors who brought their free-will offerings. “Kol chacham lev” – all the skilled workmen. The women, who contributed gifts, love and effort. The nameless rank and file helpers in the work.

All were joint partners in the project. None was unimportant, none was dispensable.

What a great lesson for our age in Jewish history in which so much building, rebuilding and upbuilding is the order of the day. In our era, as never before, every Jew counts.

A firm once advertised for a young man with a university degree and experience in accounting.

That afternoon an elderly man appeared at the firm’s headquarters and announced he had come about the advertisement.

Puzzled, the manager asked how old he was. “77,” the man said.

“We wanted a young man!” the manager said; “But are you, at least, a graduate?”

“No,” came the reply, “l have never been to university in my life.”

“Do you have any experience in accounting?” the manager went on. Again the answer was no. Understandably irritated, the manager said, “So why did you come here?”

The reply came quite calmly: “l just wanted you to know that on me you shouldn’t count!”

There are people who are always adamant that no project, no cause, no ideal should expect to count on them.

But that philosophy is suicidal for Judaism. It needs the other kind of people, who say, “I just want you to know that on me you can count!”

That’s how it is when it comes to giving. We need a 100% plan when it comes to supporting Israel or local causes, so that every single one of us gives as a Jew.

That’s also how it is when it comes to living. We need a 100% community in which every one of us lives as a Jew. No ifs, no buts, no whens.

To make a sanctuary of our homes and communities and of our own lives is the most exhilarating thing there is. But we will achieve something only if we all proudly say, “On me you can always count!”


The haftarah focusses on the dedication of the Temple, paralleling the sidra which deals with the completion of the Tabernacle.

When Solomon celebrated the completion of the Temple he prayed for it to witness the spiritual yearnings of all the nations (I Kings 8:41-43).

Centuries later Isaiah put into the mouth of God the words, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isa.56:7). No-one was debarred on the grounds of not being Jewish. Two criteria governed admission: a person had to practise justice and righteousness and be a believer in the One God.

Is it too much to hope that one day there will be a third Temple in Jerusalem in which people of all nations and faiths will join in acclaiming the One God who made us all, the One Father whose children we all are?

By Rabbi Raymond Apple

Rabbi Raymond Apple was for many years Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesman on Jewish religious issues. After serving congregations in London, Rabbi Apple was chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, for 32 years. He also held many public roles, particularly in the fields of chaplaincy, interfaith dialogue and Freemasonry, and is the recipient of several national and civic honours. Now retired, he lives in Jerusalem and blogs at http://www.oztorah.com