This week, as we read the call to proclaim liberty throughout the land, as those in the Land begin to emerge from isolation, our freedoms are still limited. It is up to us to use this moment as a reset, a Jubilee, a chance to re-evaluate what we should hold dearest. To ensure that we are truly free, we must actualize the freedom of all the inhabitants of the Land.
To honor the uncounted women in the Book of Numbers and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the U.S. this year, Rabbi Carole Balin, Ph.D., has crafted an “alternative Book of Numbers” for her weekly Torah commentaries for Ten Minutes of Torah.
In recent weeks, we have found ourselves on a journey for which we have felt totally unprepared. Like our ancestors, we lack maps and familiar signposts (though we do have Zoom!) to help us get oriented in our new reality.
As quarantines and lockdowns spread, the descriptions of tzara-at in Leviticus 13 (Parashat Tazria-M'tzora) come to mind. Tzara-at refers to a scaly skin affliction that caused people to sent "outside of the camp" into quarantine so they wouldn't spread tzara-at to others.
The coronavirus-compelled communal self-quarantine felt vaguely familiar: Here we are bamidbar (back in the wilderness), reliving Numbers, when Miriam becomes infected with a scaly, white, and highly contagious skin condition. But we’ve gotten through it before, and we will now, too.
The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: If any men or women explicitly utter a nazirite’s vow, to set themselves apart for the Eternal,they shall abstain from wine and any other intoxicant." - Numbers 6:1-2