Rest Gently: Parashat Naso

Parashat Naso
Numbers 4:21-7:89

Once again, I would like to pay attention to one of the most precious parts of the Torah, the Three-fold (- Priestly) Blessing, found in our Torah portion. (For previous treatments see Sparks for the years 2010, 2011, 2012.)

These short statements are first called “blessings,” given by the priests: “Thus shall you [- the priests] bless the Children of Israel.” (Num. 6:23) The words of blessing follow. But the concluding sentence of this text shifts the description of these words. They are characterized by God as mere utterances of the priests, who “place My Name upon the Children of Israel.” But the true act of blessing is done by God, alone: “And then I will bless them.” (v. 27)
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The Family Roe

I want to bring to your attention a most timely book. The Family Roe by Joshua Prager is not a “Jewish” book. However, the topic of abortion is of interest to many Jews and is, in fact, a Jewish topic.

Indeed, at the Shavuot tikkun, one of the study sessions was on the Jewish texts that dealt with abortion.

The Family Roe is a big book. There are more than 400 pages of closely written text and over 200 pages of notes. However, though highly detailed, the book reads easily because of the narrative nature of the story. Continue reading


The annual Shavuot Tikkun always has interesting and enlightening study sessions. This year was no exception.

The keynote featured Yael Kanerek, one of the driving forces behind Toratah the regendered Torah.

I wrote about this huge project last fall when Genesis was revealed (See Toratah, Sept 30, 2021). Since then there have been weekly study sessions revealing more of the Toratah (her Torah).

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Take Upon Ourselves: Parashat Ba-Midbar/Shavuot

Parashat Ba-Midbar/Shavuot 
Numbers 1:1-4:20

This coming week, as we celebrate the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah – Shavuot – we will recite a prayer reserved for special days in our calendar, the prayer Ya`aleh v’yavo. With this prayer we ask that our remembrance (zikaron) and our being accounted-for (piqadon) may arise and arrive before God. “To account for – p-q-d” is a term that used a lot in our Torah portion. The Fourth Book of the Torah opens with God commanding that we account for all the able-bodied men in Israel so that they will be ready for the next xhallenges facing them as they embark toward the Promised Land: “Count – tifq’du – them in all their multitudes.” (Num 1:3) The tallies that are reached are called “p’qudeihem – their accountings.”
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MESH Report May 31, 2022

The MESH team of Grossberg, Kurzweil and Rosenblatt did it again. With no one signed up to create this week’s MESH meal, coordinators Aileen Grossberg and Lynne Kurzweil stepped up with the help of ever reliable Susan Rosenblatt.

Thanks to some delicious leftovers from the Brooks family Shabbat dinner and rugelach from Marc Grossberg’s birthday celebration, the takeaway bags were full to bursting. Continue reading

Hollow: Parashat B’huqqotai

Parashat B’huqqotai
Leviticus 26:3-27:34

This Torah portion includes one version of the horrible section called “ha-tokhehah – the Admonition” (translated in our Etz Hayim volume as ‘The Execration’). (Lev. 26:14-45) Another version is included in Moses’ own review of the Torah, in Deuteronomy (28:15-68). Twice the Torah seeks to frighten us into obeying God’s commandments by threatening that terrible and gruesome tragedies and sufferings will befall us if we do not heed God’s word. Yet, these repeated threats have been to no avail. We have endured these predicted catastrophes again and again and seem to never learn our lesson. Continue reading

Update from the Shomrei Refugee Assistance Group

We are happy to report that the two Afghan brothers that we “adopted” a few months ago are assimilating very well in Elizabeth. The older (23-year-old) brother has a full-time job at a local retail establishment and the younger (14-year-old) brother has made many friends, is playing every sport imaginable and is looking forward to “moving up” from his 8th grade class to high school next year. We are currently exploring summer camp opportunities for him, as well as enhanced ESL tutoring during the summer.

Since this will be the first summer in Elizabeth for the brothers, we are hoping to find a way to help them keep their apartment reasonably cool. There is currently no air conditioning in their apartment. So, if anyone has a (small) window air conditioner, or a portable, that they would like to donate, please contact Andy SIlver (email hidden; JavaScript is required).  In fact, we are hoping to find two air conditioners, since one of the Syrian refugee families that we have been assisting during the past few years has also requested one.

Thank you all for your continued support.

Judith, Mike, and Andy


Purchases of food and household goods for Refugee Families are financed by our members’ financial contributions. You can make a contribution online at Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund, Refugee Assistance, or by a check made out to “Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund” and sent to Congregation Shomrei Emunah, 67 Park Street, Montclair, NJ 07042, designating “Refugee Assistance” in the check’s memo line.

Responding to the Tragedy of Gun Violence

Like all of you, our hearts are broken following the horrendous death of innocent children at an elementary school in Uvalde Texas, which follows two mass shootings last week at a supermarket in Buffalo and a church in Laguna Woods California. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need to act. Taking action is the only thing that will change what is happening. Here are some suggestions for appropriate actions you can consider taking. Continue reading