Bamidbar

“Parsha and Purpose” – Bamidbar/Naso 5782 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“The Book of Ruth and Receiving the Torah: Respecting the Humanity of Others”

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Parshat Bamidbar (Diaspora) and Parshat Naso (Israel)

“The Book of Ruth and Receiving the Torah: Respecting the Humanity of Others

On the holiday of Shavuot, we read Megillat Ruth, which focuses on the same period of history as the Book of Shoftim (Judges).

In fact, the Gemara tells us that the two books were written by the same author. [Bava Batra 14b]

And that’s why when you look at the books of Ruth and Shoftim, you will see that they have similar styles of language and similar themes.

In fact, Josephus, when he counts the books of Tanach, merges the Book of Ruth and the Book of Shoftim into one.

And there are several important contrasts between them that create a parallism.

The first is the way in which each book concludes:

בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֔ם אֵ֥ין מֶ֖לֶךְ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אִ֛ישׁ הַיָּשָׁ֥ר בְּעֵינָ֖יו יַעֲשֶֽׂה׃
It was in these days, there was no King in Israel,
and therefore, everyone does what they want.

[Judges 21:25]

וְעֹבֵד֙ הוֹלִ֣יד אֶת־יִשָׁ֔י וְיִשַׁ֖י הוֹלִ֥יד אֶת־דָּוִֽד׃
And Oved begot Yishai, and Yishai begot David.
[Ruth 4:22]

In the former, anarchy reigns. In the latter, we read of the origins of the Davidic dynasty, answering the challenge at the end of the Book of Shoftim and heralding the Jewish People’s ultimate destiny.

Additionally, the Book of Shoftim is filled with stories of people who are anonymous, who are treated as objects.

For example, we will never know the name of Yiftach’s daughter, who pays the price for the narcissistic actions of her father. [Judges 11:30-40]

We will never know the name of the pilegesh of Giv’a who is abused, raped, killed, and then cut up into many pieces. [Judges, Chapter 19]

The Book of Shoftim treats people as objects, to the extent that sometimes their basic needs – food and water – aren’t provided, and they perish.

Professor Dr. Yael Ziegler explains that the Book of Ruth – and indeed, I think why we read it on Shavuot – is a “tikun” (a response) to what happens in the Book of Shoftim. [“Ruth: From Alienation to Monarchy”, 2015, Koren Publishers]

Because in the Book of Ruth, we move from people who are anonymous, and we give them names.

We move from people being on the periphery, to the center of history, and to lives that have purpose.

Let’s look what happens to Ruth; let’s look what happens to Naomi: they were anonymous. They were cast aside. [Ruth, Chapter 1]

But then it takes a leader like Boaz, who doesn’t speak much in the book, but does something more important: he actively listens. [Ruth, Chapter 2]

And because he actively listens, he’s able to help the woman who is collecting the abandoned sheaves and allow her to become the matriarch of the Davidic dynasty.

In contrast, there’s another character in the Book of Ruth who is not willing to listen to Ruth or Naomi. He is referred to as “Ploni Almoni” (the Hebrew equivalent of “John Doe”). We don’t even learn his name; he is simply known as “Anonymous”. [Ruth 4:1]

This is because he thinks that leadership is about speaking, not about listening.

The Book of Ruth highlights the fact that in Judaism, the credo is to actively listen.

Yes, “Na’aseh”, but also “v’nishma”. [Exodus 24:7] Yes, we have to do, but actually, we have to listen.

We have to evaluate the situation.

The credo of the Jewish people is about “Sh’ma Yisrael”, it’s about listening. [Deuteronomy 6:4]

Torah she’b’al Peh, the entire Oral Tradition, is built on the words “ta sh’ma”, come and actively listen.

We follow the mandate of Beit Hillel and not the mandate of Beit Shammai because Beit Hillel listened to Beit Shammai and only then shared their opinion. [Eruvin 13b]

We read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot, because if we are to celebrate a relationship with God, we must begin by actively listening.

We have to follow the message of Boaz.

We have to understand that the credo of the Jewish people is to actively listen.

Regarding members of our family: it’s not enough to love them, we have to respect them.

And regarding the Jewish people: it’s not enough to love them; we have to respect them, we have to actively listen.

The Book of Ruth, a response to the anonymity of the Book of Shoftim.

The Book of Ruth, which gives names to otherwise anonymous people, and which treats people not as objects but as human beings.

And all of this begins by listening to them.

And through that, the Mashiach is born.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –”And God spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they left the Land of Egypt.” (Numbers 1:1) How can we transform a no-man’s land into …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Bechukotai/Bamidbar 5782 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“The Opportunity and Challenge of Yom Yerushalayim”

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Parshat Bechukotai (Diaspora) and Parshat Bamidbar (Israel)

“The Opportunity and Challenge of Yom Yerushalayim

It is April 29th-April 30th of 1948, the fifth day of the Omer, Chol HaMoed Pesach.

The city of Jerusalem is in a terribly challenging position. The Jews living in Rehavia, in the center of the city, are cut off from the Jews living in Makor Chayim and Ramat Rachel.

Arab Legion troops occupy the San Simon Monastery in the neighborhood of Katamon, and from the top of the monastery, they are able to, with sniper fire, pick off anyone who attempts to bring food to the Jews of Rehavia, Makor Chayim or Ramat Rachel. (In fact, “Katamon” is Greek for “by the monastery”, in this case, the San Simon Monastery.)

In response, the Jewish fighters of the Palmach decide to capture San Simon. They send 120 fighters to besiege the monastery.

One of the fighters throws a grenade into the monastery and it hits a room filled with fuel, creating a bright light, taking away the surprise of the darkness and allowing the Arab Legion soldiers to pick off many of the Jewish fighters who are trying to enter San Simon.

Out of the 120 fighters, 21 are killed and 83 are injured. The Palmach commander decided that the remaining soldiers should retreat in order to be able to be used in a more effective way to help protect the civilians of Jerusalem prior to the formal declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel, which would occur two weeks later.

At the same time, there was a concern: what would happen to those who had been too severely injured to be transported? If the Arab Legion were to capture them, they would burn and destroy them.

It was thus decided to create the “Masada of Jerusalem”. The commander of the fighting unit, a survivor of Auschwitz who had also witnessed Palmach colleagues burned by Arab Legion soldiers, decided that the fighters who could still leave on their own would leave along with those who had been lightly wounded.

The remainder of the wounded would stay with him, and he would prepare dynamite for the infirmary at the monastery. In the event that Arab Legion soldiers would overrun the property, he would detonate the building so that the Jews would not be placed in the hands of the Arab Legion fighters.

At the same time, Arab Legion reinforcements were on their way from Chevron. But the Gush Etzion fighters, several days before they would be decimated, were able to fight off the Legion, preventing them from coming to reinforce the battles in Jerusalem.

The Arab Legion, after hearing what happened with the fighters from Gush Etzion, decided to stop their advance on the San Simon Monastery, and instead retreated to the Old City.

And so the San Simon Monastery, with only a limited amount of fighters still able to literally walk, was saved. And the Jewish populations in the center of town (Rehavia) as well as in Makor Chayim and Ramat Rachel were able to replenish the food that they needed in order to be able to survive, not only for Pesach, but afterwards.

The gift of Jerusalem: the gift that HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave us:

“ושב ה’ אלוקיך את שבותך”

“And Hashem your God shall restore your captivity.”
[Deuteronomy 30:3]

Indeed, according to the Jewish Agency, in 2020, 47% of the Jewish people have already begun to live in the land of Israel.

And by 2038, it is estimated that 74% of the population of the Jewish people will live in the State of Israel. [Source: hanevuah.co.il]

In 1883, there were no homes in Jerusalem outside the walled city. In 2022, the joke in Jerusalem is that the national bird is the crane, because there is no block in Jerusalem in which building is not happening.

“עוד יקנו בתים ושדות וכרמים בארץ הזאת”

“Once again” – God proclaims through his prophet – the Jewish people “will purchase homes, fields and vineyards throughout Israel.” [Jeremiah 32:15]

We celebrate that gift that God has given us, of bringing Jerusalem together, on Yom Yerushalayim: we are now the “Startup Nation”; we have a strong economy.

According Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, in 1967, there were 200,000 people living in Jerusalem. Today, there are close to a million people in Jerusalem.

Yet the challenge of Jerusalem is still before us: because while Jerusalem is supposed to be a place that brings us together – and while God has done his part, as is evident, such as miracles that happened at the San Simon Monastery – we have not yet done our part.

We have not yet come together. And even though it is a united city, geographically, it is not yet a united city, spiritually.

There are still skirmishes by the Kotel. There are still issues in the way we talk to each other.

Yes, Yom Yerushalayim must be a celebration of the gift that God has given us. But it also has to be a celebration of the responsibility that we have – once God has given us this gift – to do our part, how we talk to each other, how we engage with each other.

It is the message of Sefirat HaOmer, with the overlay of the new Chag, Yom Yerushalayim.

Please God, wherever we live in the world, we will celebrate the unity of Jerusalem in the way we talk to each other and about each other.

And we will recognize that unity requires us to be able to understand, that despite any of our differences – with all the different denominations, or the way we as Orthodox Jews celebrate – what we have as a united community is so much stronger.

Yom Yerushalayim Samayach and Shabbat Shalom.

“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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