Parashat Bemidbar 5783

May 16, 2023

Cantor Robin Anne Joseph (’96)

“The straight line belongs to men, the curved one to God”                  ~ Antoni Gaudi, architect In case we missed it, we begin this book of the Torah with a reminder: we’re BaMidbar—in the desert. Still. But why? What are the Israelites still doing in the desert? After one year and one month, couldn’t they make it through the desert any faster? It really shouldn’t take more than a few weeks to get from Egypt to Israel, even you are traveling on foot with hundreds of thousands of people and a lot of livestock. But not to worry; at the beginning of Parashat BeMidbar, we seem to be at an inflection point. The Israelites must surely be thinking that their travels are coming to an end. As they ceremoniously take stock of the able-bodied men from among their tribes who will form an army to battle any peoples who might try to stop...

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Parashat Bemidbar 5782

June 3, 2022

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah The Torah is for Everyone A D’var Torah for Parashat Bemidbar By Rabbi Marc Rudolph (’04) Before the Sinai Desert was returned to Egypt in the Peace Treaty of 1978, it was possible to take a bus directly from Tel Aviv to the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm el Sheik. I boarded that bus alone on my Spring Break of 1973 when I spent a year in Israel. I intended to camp out on the beach and snorkel on the reefs of the Red Sea off Sharm El Sheik. There were only a few of us on that bus, including a Bedouin man. We traveled for hours through seemingly interminable and vast expanses of wilderness. When we think of “wilderness” in North America, we imagine tracts of virgin forests with wild rivers flowing through them untouched by human hands. We think of nature “untamed” by...

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Parashat Bemidbar 5781

May 14, 2021

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashat Bemidbar By Rabbi Lizz Goldstein (’16)The summer is nearly here, more and more adults are vaccinated, and it seems new opportunities for gathering will become available. And yet, the language of “reopening” or “returning to normal” feels complicated for me. Setting aside for the moment all the issues that already existed in the old normal which were exacerbated and highlighted during the pandemic but largely ignored on the level of institutional change, the concept of “returning” now rings false when faced with the reality of how many people have been out and about right along. Some due to financial necessity, some due to youthful feelings of immortality, and some due to misinformation and the politicization of the virus. Now there are reports of variant strains of the coronavirus, that herd immunity may never really be...

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Parashat Bemidbar 5780

May 22, 2020

Twelve Tribes Meditation for Parashat Bemidbar A D’var Torah for Parashat Bemidbar By Rabbi Jill Hammer Parashat Bemidbar describes how the twelve tribes encamp around the Tabernacle and the priests: three tribes on each side, with the Levites at the center. This sacred geometry is reminiscent of the months of the year and also of the four directions and seasons—twelve is three times four, a combination of two powerful numbers. One way to take in the Torah of Parashat Bemidbar is to explore the encampment of the twelve tribes through meditation. Sefer Yetzirah, the Book of Creation, is a Jewish mystical work written between the 6th and 9th century CE. Sefer Yetzirah describes how God uses the Hebrew letters to create the world. Twelve of the letters are associated with twelve human faculties, and also with the twelve months. Later Jewish sources associate each month and faculty with a tribe as well. In one version of...

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Parashat Bemidbar 5779

June 6, 2019

The “New” Tribes of Israel A D’var Torah for Parashat Bemidbar By Rabbi Irwin Huberman (’10) Over the centuries, there has been much debate and speculation regarding the fate of the twelve tribes of Israel. In recent years, with the advent of such genealogy programs as and 23andMe, there has been considerable interest within the Jewish world and beyond in tracing our roots and countries of origin. Yet, in spite of this new technology, few of us, with the exception of the Kohanim and Levi’im, know which tribe we descend from. But, can we truly say, in 2019, that the idea of tribalism within Judaism is passé? Perhaps not. In Biblical times, each Israelite knew where they came from. Each tribe has its own banner. Each tribe had its own personality. In the closing portion of the Book of Genesis, in his last days, Jacob gathers his twelve sons, and gives...

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