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Adding the Divine’s Name to the Hebrew Word for Group Makes All the Difference: Coming Together with a Holy Purpose

Rabbi Arie Hasit
| 04/03/2024

This week we read Parashat Veyekhel and add Parashat Shkalim. Rabbi Arie Hasit, Assoc. Dean of The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary opens the path for us to understand the significance and discover the secret to creating a Kehilla, a community, from a Kahal, a group.  

This Shabbat we will be reading from two Torah readings. The first we will be reading from parashat Vayekhel, a continuation of how the Israelites in the wilderness are putting together the Tabernacle. And we will be reading from parashat Shkalim a special Torah reading that actually only goes back a week earlier to parashat Ki Tissa about a special donation that the entire Israelite people needs to give.

I’d like to speak for the moment about the connection between these two things through a look at the word: ק – ה – ל   קהל.

Vayekhel means to gather the people together, and indeed ק – ה – ל   קהל is a group of people. We use this word in modern Hebrew largely to describe a crowd or an audience. When you have a play or a concert, the people who are watching and have gathered together are a קהל .

Of course, this term is also known to us in Hebrew through word קהילה which means community.

What exactly makes a crowd into a community?

Let’s think, actually, about what the task is at hand. Parashat Vayekhel talks about how the Israelites are to continue in their work in creating this sanctuary, this Mishkan, this traveling temple of sorts, where God will dwell among the People of Israel.

Parashat Shkalim actually give us something kind of counterintuitive, even against different parts of the Torah. Where earlier we learned that everybody should give according to what their hearts desire, and according to what their ability to give is. In Parashat Shkalim, we are told that every person must give exactly half of a shekel. Whether you are wealthy or poor, you do not give more you do not give less, you give exactly half.

Parashat Shkalim is an excellent reminder that sometimes equality means being able to give and perform based on your abilities and sometimes equality means treating everybody as equals.

So what exactly is a kehilla קהילה?

A קהילה is a place where everybody has the opportunity to be their unique individual selves, to give what they can based on their abilities, based on their means, but also a Kehilla is a place where every person is seen as equal. Where in some moments, everyone is told you are no more and you are no less: everyone is together.

What is this great being that represents the infinity of every person?

The fact that we are all equal, we all created, of course, in the image of God.

A Kehilla is the place that makes room for God. We learn that from the combination of Vayekhel and Shkalim that when we come together and when we are equal, we make room for God.

What happens when you add God’s name Yud Hey (י ה) to ק-ה-ל?

You turn קהל into קהילה. A group of people who make room for God together by looking at each other as equals with an equal sense of purpose and mission.

That is Holy Community.



Rabbi Arie Hasit, Associate Dean, Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, was ordained by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in 2016 and was in the second cohort of the Mishlei program. Prior, he served six years as the founding rabbi and CEO of 70 Faces — Mazkeret Batya, a unique community that promotes the values of Masorti Judaism and religious pluralism in the public sphere.

Rabbi Hasit volunteers as co-chair of the Masorti Movement’s Youth Committee and as a member of the Law Committee for the Israeli Rabbinical Assembly.

He lives in Mazkeret Batya with his wife, Sara Tova Brody and their two children.

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