Tag Archives: Miracle

Roller Coasters

6 May

Over the last two days the State of Israel has endured, as it does annually, a roller coaster of emotion. Setting aside an entire day to mourn, recall, and reflect on the sacrifices on which The State stands. Followed immediately by unparalleled revelry and celebrations of survival and appreciation of the independence of a vibrant and thriving Israel is never easy, but always meaningful. This particular cycle was especially powerful personally, as it was my first while serving in the army. The Nahal brigade has been adopted by the City of Jerusalem, and as such we were selected to participate in a number of ceremonies throughout the city.

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to be in the honor guard in three ceremonies. We drilled all day Sunday in the heat, practicing maneuvers that would become part of the ceremony that evening and the next day. Late in the afternoon, the mood began to shift as the sun neared the horizon. Despite the personal discomfort from the repeated rehearsals, I began to recognize that the role that I was playing in the ceremony was extremely important to the community members who would be attending. Finally we marched in and assumed our positions. Seconds before the siren, we stood at attention. With the first wail of the siren, those assembled instantly mirrored us, standing at attention. From that point on, I stopped attempting to maintain a steely stare, and began looking at faces. Each set of eyes stared back, sharing pain and appreciation for the other. As the ceremony progressed and my knees grew weaker, I noticed the children. As I gazed out over them, all I could hope was that they would never have to stand where I was standing. Tears

Two more ceremonies on Monday. The first was the Jerusalem municipal ceremony next to city hall. Standing on the stage behind Mayor Barkat looking out at the large plaza, assembled soldiers with whom I serve, and Israeli flags flying at half mast, I was overcome with emotion. The Army cantor intoned the memorial prayer and tears flowed from my eyes. As he reached the words, “soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces,” a chill went down my spine. Wrapped in my own thoughts, I maintained a stoic face even as those tears continued. What was I doing there? An immigrant, a soldier without immediate family in the country, knowingly putting myself in danger for a state where I was not born. Honoring the sacrifice of the soldiers before me whose lives were lain upon the alter of the State of Israel, whose lives allow me to live in a thriving Israel, that is what I was doing. The final ceremony was significantly smaller, and equally more personal. Once concluded a woman approached us, asked us to keep her safe, and to tell us that she is praying for our safe return to our families. Tears.

I concluded the day with a trip to Har Herzl, the military cemetery in Jerusalem. Despite the heat, I rolled down my sleeves and put on my beret. I knew that I needed this experience for me, I had helped others in honoring the fallen, and I needed to do the same. As I passed grave after grave, I read names, ages, places of birth and death. Each one became extremely personal. Each soldier has a story, a family, a personality, he is not just a headstone with a name and an army identification number.  All of the young men with whom I serve have a story, a family, and a personality, they are much more than an army identification number, how would I, if necessary memorialized them? I then began to consider how I would want to be remembered should something, God forbid, happen to me. What stories would I want told? Who would tell them? Tears.

Last evening, after returning from Har Herzl and removing my uniform, I attended a celebratory t’fillat arvit (evening service) before taking to the streets of Jerusalem. A day of delicious food, friends, and relaxation was the prefect way to celebrate. Thus concludes this forty-eight hour roller coaster ride. The sheer contrast of emotions leads me, and I imagine greater Israel, to appreciate the State, the price necessary for it to exist, as well as the effort needed to make it perfect.


D’var Torah: Parashat Naso

17 May

Repetition repetition repetition, Parashat Naso contains a lot. As a bar mitzvah boy I was puzzled, although thrilled because there was less to learn, that the parasha insisted on using the same language to express the same occurrence. For twelve days the head of each tribe brought an offering that served to inaugurate the mishkan, which was now ready to be dedicated. In fact, all of chapter seven’s verses, 89, in total, are devoted to these tributes. After introducing the forthcoming gifts, a list detailing the offerings of each tribe is  provided, using the following formula:

נה  קָרְבָּנוֹ קַעֲרַת-כֶּסֶף אַחַת, שְׁלֹשִׁים וּמֵאָה מִשְׁקָלָהּ, מִזְרָק אֶחָד כֶּסֶף, שִׁבְעִים שֶׁקֶל בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ; שְׁנֵיהֶם מְלֵאִים, סֹלֶת בְּלוּלָה בַשֶּׁמֶן–לְמִנְחָה.  his offering was one silver dish, the weight thereof was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver basin of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meal-offering;
נו  כַּף אַחַת עֲשָׂרָה זָהָב, מְלֵאָה קְטֹרֶת.  one golden pan of ten shekels, full of incense;
נז  פַּר אֶחָד בֶּן-בָּקָר, אַיִל אֶחָד כֶּבֶשׂ-אֶחָד בֶּן-שְׁנָתוֹ–לְעֹלָה.  one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb of the first year, for a burnt-offering;
נח  שְׂעִיר-עִזִּים אֶחָד, לְחַטָּאת.  one male of the goats for a sin-offering;
נט  וּלְזֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים, בָּקָר שְׁנַיִם, אֵילִם חֲמִשָּׁה עַתֻּדִים חֲמִשָּׁה, כְּבָשִׂים בְּנֵי-שָׁנָה חֲמִשָּׁה:  זֶה קָרְבַּן גַּמְלִיאֵל, בֶּן-פְּדָהצוּר.  {פ}  and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lamb of the first year.
Torah inside of the former Glockengasse Synago...

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse Synagogue in Cologne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When discussing the miskan, it is critical to remember that we are dealing with the location, although portable, in which Gods presence will reside following the consecration. Rashi, commenting on verse 85 of chapter seven, explains that individual mention of each tribe and subsequent summary at the end of the parasha is to remind us that we are dealing with holy vessels. Rashi takes his explanation an additional step that provides support for his reading, quoting the Sifrei (54) who says that the weight of the vessels is given only in shekels, a holy measurement, which is not the typical weight by which such vessels would be measured, proving the sanctity of the dedication, as well as a potential method by which to explain the repetition. From day to day, the only textual difference is the tribe and the name of the tribal chief who was entrusted with representation. Following the list of the tribes is a recapping of the total amount of each object. Why is it necessary to list a play-by-play of the daily offerings plus the summation, would it not have been enough for the Torah to teach us that each tribe brought the same items, of a specific quantity, equaling a certain amount?

Having suggested reasons for the day-by-day description of the offerings, we must now turn to the Ramban in order to understand the inventory that appears at the end of the parasha. The Ramban quotes Rabi Moshe Hadarshan who understands the summation as a testament to the accuracy and of the weights and measures as a semi-miracle. In the ancient world scales were inaccurate, when precious metals were weighed and reweighed, the results were variable, but for the holy donations to the mishkan, an accurate accounting was made when the gifts were delivered, and when they were all weighed together. However, Rashi and the Ramban turn to the Sifrei (54), preferring instead to offer the possibility that every vessel was crafted by the artisans to the precise specifications that God demanded, a testimony to their devotion and attention to detail. So accurate was their work that when weighed separately and together, there was no discrepancy.  That the weights were consistent is interpreted by some as a miracle, perhaps divinely inspired, especially given the technological shortcomings of the day, is a notion with which the Ramban is clearly not entirely comfortable.

Obviously the questions posed above are based on the principle that there are no superfluous words in the Torah, and the answers are forced to take that assumption into consideration.  As somebody who is currently undertaking the learning of countless halakhic details while sometimes struggling to see the embedded kedusha, I prefer the Sifrei’s perspective, it is through precise measurements, attention to detail, and devotion that every item was crafted, which speaks to the holiness of the purpose they are intended to fulfill, thus making the repetition necessary. I hope to import the sanctity of details into my own learning.

Shabbat shalom.