Unbearable Riches: Parashat Balaq

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Parashat Balaq (5779 – 2019)
Numbers 22:2 – 25:9

He took in the vast encampment spread out before him on the plain below. It seemed to him like some kind of Levittown of the wilderness. The open country had been tamed by well-ordered rows of prim tents, set up just so, the very model of peaceable neighborliness. And Bil`am, despite himself, was overcome with a rush of blessings that he poured out upon the people of Israel.

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Fly Me to the Moon

moon1The Talmud tells us that the nations of the world count by the sun, but Israel counts by the moon. In fact, while the Israelites were still in Egypt, God commanded that the moon be sanctified.

The Jewish calendar is lunar, but as with many things, we Jews have improved upon the basic lunar calendar so that –as commanded- the holidays fall in the correct seasons.

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Suffocating Death: Parashat Huqqat

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Parashat Huqqat (5779 – 2019)
Numbers 19:1 – 22:1

No one can avoid death or hide from death. Death is our fate and the fate of everyone we care about as well as of all those about whom we care not a bit. Death does not care whether we care about it or not, whether we care about those who die, or not. Death is our one certainty.

And death is, for the Torah, the definitive source of ritual impurity. Perhaps this tells us that certainty is death and that it is certainty whence ritual impurity springs.
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A Day to Celebrate

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No matter where you are on the political spectrum, July 4 is a holiday to both celebrate and even revere: celebrate for the present and revere for the promise which the holiday represents.

As Jews, we should hold the promise of Independence Day in special reverence. While Jews were not always treated equally in the colonies and the nascent nation, they were usually treated better than in the lands from which they came.

The streets may not have been paved with gold- as some rumors promised- but they were more often paved than not.
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Demonize the Other: Parashat Korah

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Parashat Korah
Numbers 16:1 – 18:32

The rebellion of Korah and his allies is recounted in this Torah reading. The story is incredible, of course, in its depiction of the miraculous way that the rebels meet their end. The earth swallows them all up! Another miracle, just as wondrous, is the miracle of the flowering of Aaron’s staff. I have written about both these miracles in the past.

This time I wish to highlight another incredible aspect of this story. It is incredible to me that Korah was able to mount a challenge to Moses in the first place! How could his complaints, or the complaints of his partners, Datan and Aviram, gain any traction at all among the people? Could anyone really believe that Moses was not the legitimate leader of the Israelites? Could anyone really believe that it was Moses’ fault that the Israelites have not yet entered the Promised Land?
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Spiritual Audacity: Parashat Sh’lah

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Parashat Sh’lah
Numbers 13:1 – 15:41

“And they shall put upon the corner’s tassel (tzitzit) a deep-blue (t’khelet) thread, and it will become a tassel for you, and you shall see it, and you shall remember all the commandments of the Eternal, and you shall do them.” (Num. 15:38 – 39) These words, in the closing paragraph of our Torah portion,  describe and prescribe the mitzvah of tzitzit, the ritual tassels placed at the corners of a four-cornered garment. Today we call such a garment, mostly worn during prayer (- a “prayer shawl”) a tallit.  The plain sense of the Torah seems to indicate that this blue thread is what “makes” the tassel and completes the garment. Why is it so important? Our tradition answers that the blue color is evocative. It reminds us of God’s commandments because it reminds us of the infinite expanses of the sea and of the sky, and these associations lead us to contemplate our God in heaven. (yBer. 1:2) Thus the thread is like a scout, or guide, taking us along a voyage of imagination, each step drawing us along until we sense God’s commanding Presence. Continue reading

MESH Report 6/25/19

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From CaptainLynne Kurzweil:

We welcomed a full house of 24 guests plus 3 takeaways to our final MESH Cafe of the spring season. We will resume serving in September while our MESH guests can attend cafe at other houses of worship over the summer. Tonight Master Chef Aileen Grossberg prepared a sumptuous feast with the help of Yours Truly, Arden Epstein and young helpers Zaniah and Sarah. Also assisting with plating, serving and clean up were Alex Kent and Rachel Kanter.
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Outsider: Parashat B’ha`a lot’kha

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Parashat B’ha`a lot’kha
Numbers 8:1 – 12:16

The arrangements for moving on have all been made. The time has come. Israel’s encampment around Mount Sinai will be dismantled and begin their march to the Promised Land. This move has the potential for creating chaos among the young nation. Therefore great care has been taken to keep everyone in an ordered environment. Each tribe has been assigned its place in the encampment. And, when the camp breaks up to move on, the tribes are told exactly where they fit in the long procession trekking forward.

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