Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah

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This week is the 50th anniversary of the “Six Day War” that established Israel’s position as a major military power in the Middle East.  Those 6 days in June of 1967 gave our people great pride--to know that Israel could hold its own against hostile forces.  But, this 50th anniversary also marks the beginning of Israel’s role as an occupier of territory claimed by another people.  For many Jews, in Israel and in the Diaspora, this reality is very troubling.  In her commentary on this week’s Torah portion, Rabbi Mary Zamore pointed out that the Israelites in the wilderness were commanded to use silver trumpets for many conflicting purposes—from the announcing the waging of war to the celebration of holidays. (Num 10: 1- 10) She noted that this 50th anniversary is a mixed bag as well.  We celebrate Israel’s strength and vitality and also worry about its avalues and future.

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.)

JULY FOOD OF THE MONTH: Canned Tuna  

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