The Tabernacle and Disney Magic

After returning from a week-long family trip to Disney — notice I did not refer to it as a vacation, because if you’ve ever taken kids to Disney World before, you know it’s not a vacation — I can’t stop thinking about the power of Disney. I’m not just referring to the happiness and the “Disney Magic.” I’m referring to the customer service. Like when my nephew was upset that at a character breakfast, Donald Duck signed his autograph book and signed it over Cinderella’s autograph. Daisy Duck immediately noticed and picked him out of the crowd to dance with him and turn his frown into a smile. Or when my son was trying to trade Disney pins on his lanyard (if you don’t know about Disney pin trading, that’s a whole other story) one night before a fireworks show and then realized that his lanyard was back at the hotel room with half of the family (and a sleeping baby.) When he began to get teary-eyed, the individual working the cash register selling ice cream bars noticed and gave him the two pins he wanted. Again, the goal was to turn his frown into a smile.

GoofyBecause Disney employees aren’t really employees. They are cast members. They are all playing a part. They are all integral in making up the Disney community and creating Disney magic. This isn’t just about Mickey and Minnie Mouse. This includes the individuals who are checking your tickets, those selling cotton candy, those working in the gift shops, those taking your pictures in front of Cinderella’s castle, and even those sweeping up the food you just spilled on the ground. They are all cast members. And they are all integral to making sure that your experience is magical.

It was an important lesson, reminding me not just that every person matters, but every person can have an impact. In fact, every person must have an impact.

On Shabbat Shekalim, we read the special maftir Torah reading in which we are told:

“Everyone shall give a half shekel… the rich shall give no more and the poor shall give no less” (Ex. 30:14-15).

Everyone was to bring a half shekel. This was a reminder that everyone is community mattered. And everyone counted. Everyone did not bring a full shekel. Everyone only brought a half, a piece, because it was only together that they were whole.

And so too, in Parashat Vayakhel, we were commanded to bring gifts to build the tabernacle, and told to give of our skills and materials. So much was brought that it was more than enough. But it was only more than enough because everyone participated. If only one person gave all of themselves, no matter how much they gave, it wouldn’t have been enough. But everyone gave and so it was more than plenty.

Disney wouldn’t be magical, even if you got to meet Mickey and Minnie, if it was dirty, and messy, and people were mean and unhelpful. What makes it magical is the smile on everyone’s face. What makes it magical is that everyone is invested in its success.

What ultimately made the Tabernacle holy was the contribution of all. We are taught that Kavod Shechina, God’s earthly Presence, eventually resided in the Mishkan once it is complete. Because God resides where community resides. God was present where community came together. It was through community, through each person mattering, counting, and serving as a “cast member” of the Israelite community, that we were able to see God’s earthly Presence, that we were able to see God in each other.

Similarly, let us see the value and worth, the Presence, in each person. Let each individual bring our skills and our goods, and be a cast member, as we build holy community together. Then we can see the magic. We don’t need fireworks shows or Tinkerbell’s pixie dust. Just seeing each other as divine allows us to see the Divine. And hopefully, the lines won’t be as long.

– Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky


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