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Responsibility

Justice and Mercy Are Jewish Love

In this week’s Torah portion, NasoYHVH reminds Moses, “Speak to the Israelites: When men or women individually commit any wrong toward a fellow human being, thus breaking faith with the Eternal, and they realize their guilt, they shall confess the wrong that they have done. They shall make restitution in the principal amount and add one-fifth to it, giving it to the one who was wronged.” (Numbers 5:6-7). The instruction to admit wrongdoing and make restitution applies to those we like and those we don't like.

D'var Torah By: 
Personalizing the Commandments Is the Beginning of Change
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Steven H. Rau

Just as we are guided to look inward at this commandment to acknowledge and make restitution to someone we have wronged, so we should look inward with every commandment in the Torah. Every directive in the Torah may be thought of in the first person — as if it were written for us. Just as at the Passover seder we recite the words, “It is because of this that God did for me when I went out from Egypt,” so, too, can each commandment be read as it were directed to each one of us individually. 

Each of Us Can Kindle the Light Within

We find the initial reference to the ner tamid in this week’s Torah portion, Parashat T’tzavehThe parashah opens with the instructions for creating and maintaining the ner tamid. “You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly. Aaron and his sons shall set them up in the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain which is over [the Ark of the Pact], [to burn] from evening to morning before the Eternal. It shall be a due from the Israelites for all time, throughout the ages” (Exodus 27:20-21).

D'var Torah By: 
Bells and Pomegranates: Our Approach to Godly Conversations
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Katie Bauman

T’tzaveh contains a detailed description of the clothing to be donned by the first priests as they enter God’s presence. One such detail is “On [the robe’s] hem make pomegranates … all around the hem, with bells of gold between them all around.” (Exodus 28:33). We might imagine the jingling of those bells as an announcement of the priest’s intention to come into God’s royal presence.

Reduced to Numbers . . . Do We Count?

Were they people? Not to the Principal. Not even employees? They were more like digits, widgets, sprockets, more cogs on the command chain. (Joshua Cohen, The Book of Numbers, Oxford, 2014, p. 1.87)

Incredulous. That's how I felt, after requesting and then learning my Uber passenger rating. You see, drivers get to rate and rank you too.

"4.8! That's it?" I thought. "I've never been impolite or unfriendly. I never cancel a request after submitting one. What reason could there be for denying me a full five stars?"

Once again, here was one small example of the many ways each of us is reduced to numbers as we go about our post-modern lives.

D'var Torah By: 
Presence Is at the Heart of Community
Davar Acher By: 
Charlie Cytron Walker

Rabbi Skloot concludes, "We are all precious treasures, worthy of love and affection." This is true for us as individuals, and it is equally true when we are able to see ourselves as part of something larger than ourselves. In addition to teaching us that God loves each of us, the census in B'midbar serves another purpose. A plain reading of the text shows us that the census is not simply to count all the Israelites:

"Take a census of the whole Israelite company [of fighters] by the clans of its ancestral houses, listing the names, every male, head by head…from the age of twenty years up, all those in Israel who are able to bear arms" (Numbers 1:2-3).

The Light that Brings Us Closer to God

This week's Torah portion, Parashat T'tzaveh, continues the detailed instructions for the building and decoration of the Tabernacle, our ancestors' portable sanctuary during the years of wandering in the desert. Most of the details discussed in T'tzaveh, like bejeweled vestments to be worn by the priests, are exotically unfamiliar to Jews today. But the parashah opens with a description that seems much more familiar to anyone who has spent time inside a synagogue sanctuary. "You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly," God tells Moses (Exodus 27:20). But the last two words — ner tamid — can also be translated as "eternal light."

D'var Torah By: 
Lifting the Light to Invite God In
Davar Acher By: 
Andrew L. Rosenkranz

Light serves as such an important element of our religious practice. Many adults brought up in the Jewish faith have special memories of lighting the Shabbat candles every Friday night. The radiance of the flame emits a distinctive warmth that brings us closer to one another and reminds us that the week is over.

A kindled flame is mysterious. Perhaps the reason we light candles before each holiday is to remind us that we are welcoming a grander sense of God's Presence into our lives at that particular moment, and the ner tamid, "eternal light," serves as a constant reminder of that presence. A single flame awakens many senses within us. We can feel its warmth. We can see its glow. We can even hear the strike of the match and the sizzle of the wick.

Longing to Reenter the Wilderness

I had never had a mystical experience until I entered the wilderness of Sinai about twenty years ago. At the time, I didn't know I has having a mystical experience.

D'var Torah By: 
Who Is THE Closest to God?
Davar Acher By: 
Daniel W. Bennett

On my own spiritual journey I've discovered that every person is blessed and holy, that each of us is touched with a spark of the divine.

The Sacred Compass for Our Journey

B'midbar, "Into the wilderness." Each experience along the way, each encounter on our path, helps to mold us as individuals.

D'var Torah By: 
Math Anxiety
Davar Acher By: 
Karen Winkler Weiss

If God's instructions to Moses at the beginning of Parashat B'midbar (Num. 1:1- 4:20) are my indication, it's not a wilderness out there, it's a jungle.

Who Counts?

In Parashat B'midbar, we begin reading the Book of Numbers.

Stand Up, Be Counted, and Be Accountable
Davar Acher By: 
Joan Carr

There is much anxiety these days about Y2K, the coming of the millennium. Amidst all the uncertainty, one thing is for sure: There will be another census taken in the United States.

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