Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20 )
GOOD MORNING! Tuesday evemening, May 30th, begins the two day holiday of Shavuot (or Shavuos in the Ashkenazic pronunciation). (Yizkor is on Thursday, June 1st.) It is the anniversary and celebration of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people 3,329 years ago. It is a time of rededication and commitment to learning Torah. (It'll be worthwhile to go to http://www.aish.com/holidays and click on Shavuos).
Q & A: WHAT IS SHAVUOT AND
HOW IS IT CELEBRATED?
The Torah calls Shavuot the "Festival of Weeks" (Numbers 28:26). The very word "Shavuot" is Hebrew for "weeks"; it refers to the seven weeks that one counts from the second day of Passover (when the Omer [barley] offering is brought) until the holiday of Shavuot. It is one of the three Regalim, holidays, (Pesach and Succot are the other two) where every man in the land of Israel was commanded to come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival when the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, stood in Jerusalem.
Torah is the life blood of the Jewish people. Our enemies have always known that when we Jews stop learning Torah, our assimilation is inevitable. Without knowledge there is no commitment. One cannot love what he does not know. A person cannot do or understand what he has never learned.
A Jew is commanded to learn Torah day and night and to teach it to his children. If a Jew wants his family to be Jewish and his children to marry other Jews, then he must integrate a Torah study program into his life and implement the teachings into his home and his being. One can tell his children anything, but only if they see their parents learning and doing mitzvot, will they inherit the love for being Jewish. Remember: a parent only owes his child three things -- example, example, example.
How can we utilize this opportunity to grow and strengthen our self-identity as Jews? Just as a baby crawls, then toddles and then walks, likewise with the mitzvot (commandments). A person should undertake one more mitzvah, do it well and then build on it. For some mitzvot that you might enjoy taking on...
A FEW SUGGESTIONS
1. Read the Torah! The Almighty gave it to you as a gift. It is the instruction book for living -- how to be happy, choose the right spouse, make your marriage work, raise your children with values, get more joy out of life. I highly recommend the Artscroll Stone Chumash (Five Books of Moses)
2. Attend a Torah class -- or if you wish to listen to recorded classes, try 613.org or AishAudio.com to download over 2,000 classes for your mp3 player! Buy a copy of Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) and read one page a day. It contains concentrated wisdom about life!
3. Make sure you have a Kosher mezuzah scroll on at least your front door. (A Jewish home should have mezuzot on all doorposts except for the bathrooms). Learn the deep, inner-meaning of mezuzah and reflect on it when you look at the mezuzah. To Be a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Donin nicely explains a lot of things.
4. Pick one non-kosher food item that you won't eat -- just because you're Jewish.
5. Say the Shema and its three following paragraphs at least once a day. Learn what the words mean and the ideas included. It will change your outlook and attitudes. Artscroll publishes a book on the Shema -- or look at the commentary in the Artscroll Siddur. Lisa Aiken's book, Hidden Beauty of the Shema, is spectacular!
6. Do something to make Shabbat special -- light two candles with the blessing before sundown, have a Shabbat Friday night family dinner and make Kiddush and HaMotzei (the prayer before eating the Challahs -- the special loaves of bread). You might want to buy Friday Night and Beyond by Lori Palatnik which is a hands-on guide for the novice wanting to enjoy Shabbat.
The Talmud says, "All beginnings are difficult." If you need help or have questions, please feel free to call me at 815-301-1928 or e-mail to: email@example.com.
On Shavuot there is a custom to stay up all night learning Torah. Virtually every synagogue and yeshiva have scheduled learning throughout the night ending with the praying of Shacharit, the morning service. The reason: the morning the Jewish people were to receive the Torah on Mt. Sinai, they overslept. We now can rectify the tendency to give in to our desires by demonstrating our resolve through learning the whole night. It is a meaningful experience to share with your children. It would be wonderful if you could find a synagogue, JCC or yeshiva with a program that night; at very minimum, how about reading the story of the giving of the Torah to your family (Exodus 19:10 -20:23). For more on Shavuos, go to AishAudio.com!
Bamidbar, Numbers 1:1 - 4:20
In the second year of travel in the desert, Moshe and Aharon were commanded by the Almighty to count all male Israelites between 20 and 60. There were 603,550 available for military service. The tribe of Levi was exempt because of their special duties as religious leaders. (It is probably from here that countries give divinity deferments to clergy and divinity students.)
The twelve tribes were directed regarding the formation (three tribes were on each side of the Portable Sanctuary) in which they were to camp and travel.
The 22,300 Levites were commanded in the Sanctuary service. The family of Gershon was to transport the coverings of the Sanctuary. The family of Kehos carried the Ark, Table, Menorah and Altars. The family of Merari transported the boards, pillars, bolts and sockets.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah gives instructions on how the children of Israel shall encamp in the desert -- on which side of the Tent of Meeting shall each tribe camp and which tribes shall encamp together. The Torah states, "The tribe of Issachar ...; the tribe of Zevulun..." Usually the Hebrew letter "vov" (meaning "and") is added to the name of each tribe as it is listed. However, the "vov" is conspicuously missing between the names of the tribes Issachar and Zevulun. What is the Torah coming to teach us?
The Baal HaTurim (a fascinating commentary on the Torah) explains that the tribe of Zevulun worked to support itself as well as Issachar so that the tribe of Issachar could totally devote itself to Torah study. Thus they are considered as one tribe and the reward for the Issachar's Torah study is the same for both tribes in the Heavenly World.
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz commented on this that just as one has the merit of Torah study for those he supports, likewise if one influences another to study Torah, he shares in the merit of that person. Thus we should help the study of Torah both through our financial support and through encouraging others to learn!
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
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Choice, not chance, determines destiny