Bamidbar

“Parsha and Purpose” – Bamidbar 5781 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Individualism, Conformism and Community: The Book of Bamidbar”

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Parshat Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1 – 4:20)

“Individualism, Conformism and Community: The Book of Bamidbar

Not one, not two, not three…”

This is a traditional way of counting people in Judaism. We don’t count Jews conventionally, using numbers, but rather look for other ways of reaching the final sum. 

Because in Judaism, every individual is important – every person is an entire world. If we count them as part of a larger whole, we limit their uniqueness and reduce them to being merely part of a group.

This dialectic of the prominence of the individual vs.the priority of the cmmty plays out throughout the entire book of Bamidbar, which our Sages accurately called “Sefer HaPekudim”, the English translation of which, the “Book of Numbers” –  how the cmmty is counted and the individual adds up.

For example, the daughters of Tzelafchad, women who challenge Moshe and ask how it is possible that they are not counted for inheritance simply because they did not have any male siblings.

Why should our family, they asked, which differs from the communal norm, be excluded from inheritance in the Land of Israel?

Ultimately, the perspective of this individual family triumphs over the communal norm.

Another example is the mitzvah of Pesach Sheni, in which individuals who for various reasons were unable to bring the Pascal Sacrifice  on the 14th of Nissan when the community is commanded to, are offered a “do over” one month later, when they are able to offer the Korban.

And in a third example, the Tribes of Reuven, Gad and part of Menashe request of Moshe that due to their particular individual needs they cannot dwell in a geographic area known as Israel, and ask that the definition of the Land of Israel be expanded to accommodate their particular needs.

Sefer Bamidbar – the Book of Numbers – highlights for us the challenge and the responsibility that we have to be committed to the larger narrative of community on the one hand, while at the same time remembering that the goal of the community is to create an environment which inspires each person’s creativity and ability to contribute their own unique talents to the world.

It reminds us that yes, our relationship to God needs to include the reality that we are part of a community, but it must not be limited to that paradigm: each of us needs to find our own individual rendezvous with God.

And it asks of us to be counted and to be willing to accept this duality: to celebrate our individuality while concurrently being part of our community.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sharona Hassan (1)

Parshat Bamidbar – The Book of Ruth: True Love A graduate of OTS’s Claudia Cohen Women Educators Institute, Sharona Hassan serves as Rubissa (Rabbanit) at Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation in Seattle, Washington, where she also serves as youth director. In her role as educator and community builder, Rubissa Sharona impacts upon people of all ages …

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Parshat Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1 – 4:20) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –  “And these are the names of the men that shall stand with you: of Reuven, Elizur the son of Shedeur. Of Shimon, Shelimuiel the son of Zurishaddai. Of Judah, Nachshon the son of Aminadav…” (Numbers 1:5-7) For as long as I can remember, …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Bamidbar 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Redemption in the Air: Yom Yerushalayim and Shavuot”

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“Redemption in the Air: Yom Yerushalayim and Shavuot”

Chodesh haZiv. The name that this month of Iyyar is given by the Tanakh and Talmud. It means the sprouting of new light, because we are now blessed in Israel with the blossoming of all the flowers and of the trees. The beginning of the spring. 

We start to hear the birds in the air. It’s Chodesh haZiv because it is the complete month, the month of Iyyar. From Pesach to Shavuot, where we count up from the beginning of the redemption of the Jewish people, to the final component of the redemption of the Jewish people. 

It is the beginning of the spiritual light. It is Chodesh haZiv because it is also the month that the Gemara, in Rosh Hashana, on page 11A, tells us that the patriarchs were born. 

The sprouting and the beginning of the nation. 

But for us in this generation it is also called Chodesh haZiv, the beginning of the sprouting of new light, because in this month we have been fortunate to have Yom haAtzmaut on the fifth of Iyyar – Israel Independence Day – and Yom Yerushalayim, the reunification of Jerusalem, on the 28th of Iyyar, this Friday. 

After all, what better way to celebrate Ziv, the beginning of the flourishing of the new light, when we have been blessed in this generation with these two new holidays. 

Purim and Pesach; our paradigms of redemption. Purim represents redemption that comes from humankind, from Mordechai and Esther, who galvanize the Jewish people, with God operating behind the scenes. Pesach is a miracle that is orchestrated by God. He is the primary conductor, with the Jewish people playing a secondary role. 

On Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim, you have the themes of Pesach and Purim together: an initiative by humankind, Jews throughout the world, human beings throughout the world, that move to help the Jewish people have its homeland. It is the celebration of the Purim experience in modern-day time. 

But you also have the initiative of God, who uses His powerful hand to empower the army of the Jewish people to defy all the military odds, to guarantee the immortality of the Jewish people. 

In this generation, we have been blessed with the full blossoming of Chodesh haZiv, the full blossoming of a radiant light in this month. 

It focuses on our movement towards Shavuot. It focuses on finding God in nature, the beginning of the Jewish people through our patriarchs, and the continuation of the story, through Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. 

The message that we have for this week, to be blessed, to be zoche, to merit to be part of this generation, where we see the beginning of the final redemption of the Jewish people. 

Shabbat Shalom, and Chag Yerushalayim Sameach!

Rav Yoni Rosensweig

Parashat Bamidbar: “Take the Levites” Why does the Torah go to such lengths to keep the Levites completely separate from the rest of the Israelites? Why did it order a separate census of the Levites? Rabbi Yoni Rosensweig, Faculty of the Maria and Joel Finkle Overseas Program at Midreshet Lindenbaum Parashat Bamidbar contains technical lists of …

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Shabbat Shalom: Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin  Efrat, Israel –  ‘And God spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they came out of the Land of Egypt’ (Numbers 1:1) Bamidbar, or “In the desert,” …

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Rabbi Aviad Sanders

Parshat Bamidbar: Body Divided; Soul United Rabbi Aviad Sanders is the Director of Career Development and Placement at the Susi Bradfield Institute for Halakhic Leadership and a ra’m at Midreshet Lindenbaum The fourth of the Five Books of Moses begins with a new census of the Jewish people and a description of the Jewish people’s encampments during …

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Shabbat Shalom: Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel-  “…by their families, by their parents’ houses.”  (Numbers 1:2 ) Early in the book of Numbers the Torah records the first census in the history of the Jewish people: “Count the heads of the entire witness community of the children of Israel, by their …

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