The Shofar, Temple Beth El’s monthly publication, keeps community and temple members up to date on what’s going on. Take a look at this month’s Shofar to see what’s coming up, or browse through the archives to see all that we’ve done!
June 2020 – Shofar (pdf)
Rabbi’s Perspectives (from the June Shofar)
At the time of writing this column, we are entering into a new book of the Torah, B’midbar, translated in English as “Numbers” but in Hebrew it is actually “In the wilderness,” or “In the desert.” Throughout June we will be making our way through B’midbar, traveling through the Sinai Desert/Wilderness, meeting up with such biblical characters as our twelve spies (only two of which—Joshua and Caleb—had the courage to believe in a Jewish future), Korach (who challenged Moses’s authority), Moabite King Balak and his Prophet Balaam (who was ordered to curse Israel and instead blessed with מַה־ טבוּ אהָ לֶ֖יךָ יַעֲ ֹ֑ קב מִשְׁכְׁ נ תֶ֖יךָ יִשְׁרָ אֵֽל, “ How nice are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel!”), and the zealous Pinchas (who “shish kebobs” two lovers for their perceived improprieties). Quite a cast of characters….join us as we make our way through these parshiyot, finding meaningful ways to frame our lives, to understand human nature, to nurture our sense of awe and transcendence, and to sync our lives with the rhythm of the Jewish People.
The Book of Numbers—“numbers,” as in a count—begins with a census count. It lists the number of able-bodied men who were available if need be for battle, counted by the chiefs of each of the twelve tribes. Women, people under 20, and those unable to join in battle were not included in this particular census, which raises an important question for us: As we build a Kehillah K’doshah, a sacred community, who is included—intentionally or unintentionally—in our congregation? Moving forward, how will we create an open tent that welcomes all who identify with the Jewish people, whether born Jewish or choosing it later, whether young or old, poor or wealthy, female or male or non-binary, knowledgeable or unschooled? Are we welcoming newcomers and ensuring that they can find us and feel welcome? Are we creating so much change that the “old-timers” feel left behind? I endeavor to help build a kehillah k’doshah in which all of us count.
The Book of Numbers forces us to ask many questions—listed here by Parashah (portion) such as:
· Who counts, as in Who is counted in this community? Who is not being counted (B’midbar)
· Who counts, as in Who does the counting? How do we determine HOW we count (B’midbar)
· What does piety look like? (Naso)
· How do we bless one another? (Naso and Balak)
· What, exactly, did Moses do wrong with the rock so that he couldn’t enter the Promised Land? (Chukkat)
· When can we kvetch? When do we accept authority? When can it be rejected? Can we disa gree, and under what conditions? (B’ha’alotkha, Chukkat, and Korach…a lot of kvetching!)
· How do we understand interfaith relationships and intermarriage? (Pinchas)
“Turn it and Turn it, for everything is in it,” we learn from Ben Bag Bag (what a funny name by today’s standards!) in Pirkei Avot—which we are learning every Saturday at 4pm and I encourage you to join us, no experience necessary—“It” being the Torah…we have so much to learn about human nature, world around us, and our most central ideals, from our sacred sources, whether it be the Torah shebikhtav (Written Law, such as the Hebrew bible) or the Torah sheb’aal peh (Oral Law, such as the Talmud)…I hope you’ll come learn about the latter by joining our Pirkei Avot Class Saturdays at 4pm, for now via Zoom.
This is a liminal time for me as your rabbi; as a transitional rabbi until the congregational vote, I yearn so much to join our board leadership in building a foundation for the future of this congregation. Regardless, there has been so much enthusiasm and joy on our Zoom calls that I feel hopeful that we are planting the seeds for a time when we will take a census of our community—just as we find in the Book of Numbers and just as the United States is doing right now—and everyone imaginable will be counted within our ranks, whether they have counted/been counted before, or they are just discovering the richness which is the Jewish people’s culture, values, prayers, and so much more.
I look forward to counting you as my friend and partner in creating a better world for all. Be blessed!
Rabbi Jonathan Klein