Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah

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Although we observe one day of Shavuot in Reform Judaism, today is the second day of Shavuot for others.  On Shavuot, we relive the receiving of Torah at Mt. Sinai and read the passages in Exodus surrounding that revelation. Before the Ten Commandments are given, Moses tells the men to purify themselves, including the statement: “Do not go near a woman.” (Ex. 19:15) …Ouch!  Just when we are looking forward to that moment when the entire community (every Jew who ever lived or would ever live) stands as one to receive the Torah, women are singled out for exclusion, or worse, for tainting the moment of revelation.  Various commentators have tried to ameliorate this statement so that it sounds less harsh or exclusionary, but the fact is that until very recent times, women were (and in some communities still are) excluded from the moments, rites, and rituals that bring them close to Torah.  We need to continue to work for the time when all women will be given access to and be recognized as having much to bring to Torah.

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.

January FOOD OF THE MONTH: Pasta

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URJ Weekly Torah Commentary

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This Week at BHT

21 Jan 2018
12:00AM
Contribution Tax Letter
21 Jan 2018
09:30AM - 10:45AM
Introduction to Judaism
21 Jan 2018
09:45AM -
Forum on Immigrants, Detainees, Dreamers and the Dream Act
22 Jan 2018
07:00PM -
Book Club | The Book of Separation
23 Jan 2018
04:00PM -
Shalom Center Soup Kitchen
23 Jan 2018
06:00PM -
Ritual Committee Meeting
24 Jan 2018
05:30PM -
Adult Hebrew Beginner Class
24 Jan 2018
06:30PM -
Adult Hebrew Continuing Class
25 Jan 2018
06:30PM - 07:30PM
Taste of Mussar
26 Jan 2018
07:30PM -
Shabbat | New Member Shabbat | K-1 on the Bima | Lay Leader
28 Jan 2018
09:45AM - 10:45AM
Mindful Yoga | Posture and Breathing for Your Health
31 Jan 2018
05:30PM -
Adult Hebrew Beginner Class
31 Jan 2018
06:15PM - 07:15PM
Tu B'shvat Seder/Pot-luck Dinner
31 Jan 2018
06:30PM -
Adult Hebrew Continuing Class
31 Jan 2018
07:15PM -
Sabbatical Committee Meeting
01 Feb 2018
12:00AM
Achshav Deadline Spring
02 Feb 2018
05:45PM -
Family Kabbalat Shabbat | Grd K-2 (Giborim Class) participate on the bima
02 Feb 2018
06:30PM -
Potluck
02 Feb 2018
07:15PM -
Film: Voyage of the Damned
03 Feb 2018
09:15AM - 10:15AM
Torah Study
03 Feb 2018
10:30AM -
Learner's Minyan | Kitah Gimel and Dalet on the Bima
04 Feb 2018
09:30AM - 11:30AM
Great Decisions
04 Feb 2018
09:30AM - 10:45AM
Introduction to Judaism