How We Acquire Our Names

How We Acquire Our Names

May 18, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Bemidbar

I am not the same person I was last year when we read the book of Numbers in the synagogue.

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Diversity through Order

Diversity through Order

May 27, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bemidbar

Order is the essence of Torah. In Genesis, God creates the world by imposing order on chaos; and in Exodus, God imposes order on a people shattered by 400 years of servitude. The transition is especially dramatic for the Israelites — their change in orientation must be two-fold, physical and spiritual. Nothing less than a revolution is required to transform these ex-slaves of Pharaoh into the loyal servants of God. And so, having proposed a legal (Revelation, specifically the laws of Torah) and ritualistic (sacrificial system as outlined in Leviticus) order for the newly freed Israelites, the Book of Numbers opens by establishing spatial order.

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The Directed Life

The Directed Life

Jun 4, 2005 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bemidbar

Order is critical to the establishment of a just and productive society. It is no wonder then that the book of B’midbar details the meticulous arrangement of the Israelite encampment. Numbers 2:2 instructs, “the Israelites shall camp each with his standard, under the banners of their ancestral house; they shall camp around the Tent of Meeting.” The parashah then continues to list the exact placement of each tribe in relation to each other. Given this attention to organization in the Israelite camp, one might expect the journey through the desert to move along flawlessly. Yet, more than any other book of Torah, B’midbar attests to the waywardness of the Israelites. How could a people blessed with Torah, the details of the sacred service of God, and now the precise map of their camp – all designed to create an orderly and meaningful society – devolve into such chaotic ways?

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Let Me Count the Ways

Let Me Count the Ways

May 22, 2004 By Rachel Ain | Commentary | Bemidbar

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s opening line to her love poem are extremely meaningful to us as we begin to read the fourth book of the Torah, the book of B’midbar, or Numbers. The counting of the Israelite people is a central part of this week’s parashah. The parashah begins with God instructing Moses to take a census of all the congregations of the children of Israel.

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Wilderness into Lakes

Wilderness into Lakes

May 31, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Bemidbar

Eden was a well–watered place. The Bible and science agree that in the beginning, the world was moist and fluid. Unlike science, the Bible is literature, and literature with a message. It embodies themes and concerns itself with the interplay of those themes.

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Counting Pearls

Counting Pearls

May 11, 2002 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Bemidbar

Of the counting of people there seems to be no end! In our parashah, men of fighting age are individually counted first by their families, and then again by their position surrounding the Ohel Mo’ed — the Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle. Why, ask commentators throughout the ages, does God command all this counting? Why is it so important to list in detail and in various forms the 603,550 men age 20 and above, able to fight in the military?

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Life, the Universe, and Everything?

Life, the Universe, and Everything?

May 27, 2006 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Bemidbar

By Rabbi Murray Ezring

Science fiction aficionados know the answer. The answer is forty-two, or so wrote Douglas Adams in his classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Numbers have always been important in Jewish tradition. So Adams might be correct. The number forty-two may contain tremendous religious significance. Four plus two equals six, the number of books in the Mishnah. Four times two equals eight, the number representing the covenant we have shared with our creator since the days of our patriarch Abraham. Six times seven, the result of multiplying the six days of the mundane workweek by the sanctity of Shabbat.

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Living Judaism As a Work of Art

Living Judaism As a Work of Art

May 14, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Bemidbar | Shavuot

When I was a youngster, Shavuot was the time for confirmation, a ceremony concocted in the nineteenth century along Protestant lines to replace bar-mitzvah and enhance synagogue attendance on the holiday, for Shavuot never enjoyed the popularity of Pesah. But a brief two days, it flits by without the elaborate ritual drama or stirring universal message of Pesah. The synagogue is its primary venue and there is little for us to do at home, except to enjoy the restful interlude with family and friends.

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