February is Inclusion Month for people with disabilities. This week, we honor those Scouts and leaders whose Cub packs, Scout troops, Venturing crews and Sea Scout ships welcome Scouts and Scouters whose abilities may differ from those of other people.
This week, in Parshat Terumah, we study about the Mishkan (Tabernacle) that God instructed the Children of Israel to build, and the beautiful items to be crafted for use in the services to be held there: The Aron (the Holy Ark which held the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments), the seven-branched Menorah which gave light burning the purest olive oil, the golden Mizbeach on which the fragrant incense was burned, and the Shulchan (Table) where the 12 loaves of the Showbread were displayed..
The materials to build the Mishkan were voluntary donations from the Jewish people. The parasha opens with God’s instruction to Moses: “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take for Me a portion, from every man whose heart motivates him you shall take My portion.” (Though it says “man” women also gave.) Everyone had something they could give.
In his commentaries on this parasha, our great teacher, The Ramban (Spain, 1194-1270) draws many parallels between the Mishkan and Mount Sinai. The Israelites were blessed with God’s presence at Sinai where they received the Ten Commandments. During the journey in the Wilderness, God’s presence would rest on the Mishkan, which would also be the place God would give Moses commandments to teach the Israelites.
The Ramban explains an important difference between the people’s experience of God at Mount Sinai and the Mishkan: “The glory that rested upon Mount Sinai should rest upon the Mishkan but in a concealed manner.”
So it is with those of us whose abilities are different than most people. Some of us have abilities that are concealed. If our abilities are not obvious to everyone, we may have to step forward and explain where our strengths lie. On the other hand, our fellow Scouts would do well to ask us what we like to do, or what we do well, to make sure that everyone in the den, patrol, troop, crew or ship benefits from our talents as a great cook, a lashings expert, a map and compass guru, a talented artist, or the funniest campfire story teller.
God has given all of us abilities, and each of us must be active both in contributing them and knowing what others can contribute.