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Bamidbar 5769

Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Thursday evening, May 28th, begins the two day holiday of Shavu'ot (or Shavu'os in the Ashkenazic pronunciation). (Yizkor, is on Shabbat, May 30th.) It is the anniversary and celebration of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people 3,321 years ago. It is a time of rededication and commitment to learning Torah. (It'll be worthwhile to go to and click on Shavu'os).

Here is a wonderful opportunity for a FREE TORAH! "Partners in Torah" is offering an Artscroll Stone Chumash (Five Books of Moses) for anyone Jewish wishing to study Torah with an individually picked study partner (your own personal Torah trainer!) by phone for one hour a week for a minimum of 4 weeks. It's all free of charge and they even provide calling cards! The first 40 readers of the Shabbat Shalom to contact them will receive a copy of the Artscroll Stone Torah, so respond ASAP! If you have received a free Torah in the past, they would love to have your feedback. To learn more and to sign up, go to: Click on "Sign Up" (upper left of the webpage). Be sure to put "Shabbat Shalom Free Torah" in the "Other Relevant Information" section.

Q & A: What is Shavu'ot and How is it Celebrated?

The Torah calls Shavu'ot the "Festival of Weeks" (Numbers 28:26). The very word "Shavu'ot" 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 Shavu'ot. 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...

Here are 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 or 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's concentrated wisdom about life.

3. Make sure you have a Kosher mezuzah on at least your front door. (A Jewish home should have mezuzot on all doorposts except for the bathroom). Learn the deep, inner-meaning of mezuzah and reflect on it when you look at the mezuzah. To Be a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Donim 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 the 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 (305) 535-2474 or e-mail to: For the books or mezuzot, try your local Jewish book store, call toll-free 877-758-3242 or

On Shavu'ot 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 "Shavu'os" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

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.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states,

"But you shall not number the tribe of Levi, nor take the sum of them amongst the Children of Israel" (Numbers 1:49).

Why was the Tribe of Levi excluded from the census of the whole Jewish people?

Rashi, cites the Midrash, "The Levites should not be counted among the others in order not to be included with them (every male over 20 years of age who would die during the 40 years traveling in the Desert after leaving Egypt). They are Mine since they did not transgress in the sin of the Golden Calf."

A poignant question arises: The decree of dying in the wilderness for every male over 20 was for the transgression of accepting the negative report about the Land of Israel from the spies. Rashi should have said that the Levites did not transgress in the episode of the spies rather than saying that they did not transgress by worshipping the Golden Calf! (By the way, none of the women listened to the spies nor worshipped the Calf!)

The Sifsai Chachomim, a commentary on Rashi, explains that the decree upon the generation was for those who both listened to the spies and were guilty in the sin of the Golden Calf. The Levites had listened to the spies and accepted the negative report about the Land of Israel. However, not only did they not err with the Golden Calf, they immediately came to Moses' side to stop the transgression. Our lesson: It pays to minimize one's transgressions!

(or go to

Jerusalem 6:39
Guatemala 6:07 - Hong Kong 6:40 - Honolulu 6:47
J'Burg 5:07 - London 8:37 - Los Angeles 7:34
Melbourne 4:57 - Mexico City 7:49 - Miami 7:44

New York 7:54 - Singapore 6:49 - Toronto 8:24


If you chase two rabbits,
you will lose them both

With Deep Appreciation to

Amory B. Propp

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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