Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah

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The Kohathites were a clan within the priestly Levite tribe who were tasked with carrying the parts of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle in the wilderness) from encampment to encampment.  In the very last verse of this week’s parasha, we are told that they were not to see the Holy of Holies (the innermost sanctum of the Mishkan) after it had been dismantled.  (Numbers  4: 20) Why would this be so?  If they were going to carry the pieces, wouldn’t they see the holy place in pieces anyway?   Perhaps, but they would not see what the Holy of Holies actually looked like in a disheveled state.  Much like we might not mind if a guest sees our pajamas hanging on a door, but we would not like to be seen wearing them, so, too, the Kohathites were protected from seeing the holy place in a state of “undress” to maintain its dignity and the high esteem in which they held it. Perhaps they would no longer regard it as holy. (After the commentary of Samson Raphael Hirsch.)

Torah portions Behar and Bechukotai (Lev. 25- 29), whose contents have little in common, may offer some meaning in being linked together.  Behar has some very lofty visions of a great society.  It is amazing to think that our ancestors, living 2500 years ago or more, came up with the idea of the Sabbatical Year, a rest for the land, and the Jubilee Year, an effort to equalize wealth and property ownership in the ancient Israelite community.  Bechukotai, on the other hand, is a stark warning that those who do not follow God’s ways will be severely punished and those who do follow them, richly rewarded.  One parasha inspires us to live by Jewish values with visions of an ideal society; the other entices us to be good Jews with the “carrot and stick” approach.  Is it possible that we sometimes need both?  In my remarks to our Confirmands this week, I will raise this question.  Our Confirmation students love tough questions and the chance to grapple with the answers.  Please come and listen to what they have to say at our Confirmation Shabbat services, Friday at 7:30pm.

“Today is the 30th day of the Omer.  There are 20 days to Sinai.”  These are the words we recite for the synagogue ritual on this day of the counting of the Omer.  We are anticipating the coming of the holiday of Shavuot on May 30-31, the holiday on which we relive the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai, so we are counting down the days until we arrive “at Sinai.”  The Omer ritual is described in this week’s Torah portion, Emor. (Lev  23:15-16).  What is not described is a special celebration on the 33rd day of the Omer, which falls this Sunday:  Lag B’Omer.  Although its origins are rather unclear, according to Jewish legend, during the time of Rabbi Akiva (2nd century CE—much later than the text of Leviticus was written), a terrible plague afflicted thousands of Akiva’s students because they were not treating each other with respect.  On the 33rd day of the Omer, this plaque ended, and it became a day of celebration.  According to halacha (Jewish law) no weddings or celebrations of any sort are to occur during any of the other 48 days of the Omer.  This prohibition is not observed in Reform Judaism.

November FOOD OF THE MONTH: Canned Tomatoes 

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URJ Weekly Torah Commentary

Saturday, November 25, 2017
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This Week at BHT

23 Nov 2017
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24 Nov 2017
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27 Nov 2017
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01 Dec 2017
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02 Dec 2017
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02 Dec 2017
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Learner's Minyan | Kitah Hey on the Bima
03 Dec 2017
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Introduction to Judaism
03 Dec 2017
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Great Decisions
03 Dec 2017
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Construction Has Begun | Let's Celebrate | Lox and Bagels Brunch