Naso (Take) B’midbar/Numbers 4:21-7:89
Haftorah Reading: Judges 13:2-25
This afternoon we study a very important Torah portion. At first glance Naso seems to be a portion of disconnected subjects. We read the account of the Levitical families of Gershon and Merari and their tasks to carry part of the Mishkan when the Israelites journeyed from place to place. We read of the sota or the wife whose husband became jealous and accused her of being unfaithful. We also read of the laws of the Nazarite. Next is the priestly blessing. This prayer has been used by faiths other than Judaism. It is the oldest prayer in the world still being used today. This prayer is followed by a listing of the gifts brought by the princes of each tribe at the dedication of the Mishkan.
Vayak’hel (He Assembled) Sh’mot/Ex. 35:1-38:20 P’Kudei (Accounts) Sh’mot/Ex 38:21-40:38
Torah Portions: Vayak’hel (He Assembled) Sh’mot/Ex. 35:1-38:20
P’Kudei (Accounts) Sh’mot/Ex 38:21-40:38
Haftorah Readings: I Kings 7:13-26; 7:40-8:21
Our teaching today covers the last two Torah portions of Exodus. The name of the first portion is Vayak’hel which means, gathering of people of like mind. It is the modern word, Kehila or congregation. It is the word we use for Road to Zion.
The second portion is Pekudei and means something like giving an account or counting. Today it is the source of the modern Hebrew word pakeed or clerk. You can add these words to your Hebrew vocabulary.
Vayetze (And He Went Out) B’resheet/Genesis 28:10-32:3
Vayetze(And He Went Out) B’resheet/Genesis 28:10-32:3
Haftorah Readings: Hosea 11:7-13:5
Today we read a Torah portion that covers a wide swath of Jacob’s life. It begins with Jacob leaving the Land and encountering angels going up and down a ladder between heaven and earth. It also ends with another incident of an encounter between angels and Jacob. The intervening years of Jacob’s life, between these two encounters, are filled with ups and downs.
B’midbar (In the desert) B’midbar/Numbers 1:1-4:20
Torah Portion: B’midbar (In the desert) B’midbar/Numbers 1:1-4:20
Haftorah Reading Hosea 1:10-2:20
Tonight, I have several topics I want to cover. I would like to begin with my question of the week. When we start this book of Torah I think it is worthwhile to compare it to the second book of Torah called Sh’mot/Exodus. In both, the people commit a terrible sin. In Exodus it was the golden calf and here in Numbers it was the sin of the bad report of the spies. In both situations G-d threatened to destroy them and start over with Moshe. Both times Moshe appealed to G-d and G-d relented.
Beha’alotcha (When You Light the Lamp) Num 8-12
Torah Portion: Beha’alotcha (When You Light the Lamps) B’midbar (Numbers) 8:1-12:16
HafTorah: Zechariah 2:13-4:7
In tonight’s Torah portion we see Moshe go from unbridled emotion at being on the journey to the Promised Land to the depths of despair when dealing with the burden of leading the people of Israel. In Numbers 10:29-32 we read where Moshe, speaking to his father-in-law, Jethro, uses the present tense verb of the journey as if it is almost over – the end is just over the next hill and he and the people will be home.
Next we read in Numbers 11:14-15 where he cries out to G-d, “Kill me, I pray you, at once if I have found favor in your sight.” In today’s slang you might say, “Just shoot me already!” What brought this man from being so excited and then one chapter later falling into depression and despair? I would like us to explore this and see what we can find that might help us in our own life when we come to such a place, and we all do at one time or another. To help us I will draw on an article that I read this week by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
Part of the answer begins in that we live in a society that prepares or encourages us to think about how to have a great career and how to succeed but leaves us on our own as to how to cultivate an inner life, a spiritual way to live. How do we have a successful life and hold on to our faith no matter what goes on around us? This very thing is the central theme of our Torah portion this week.
Up until now, we have seen Moshe as a strong, great man of G-d. He was the one who stood up to Pharaoh and even in Shemot 32:32 challenged G-d. This is the public Moshe. Like us, it was that external picture that the world saw everyday. However, here in our Torah we see a Moshe that is a lonely man, unsure of himself and finally breaking down. In Numbers 11:4-5 we see one complaint too many for Moshe. Then in Numbers 11:21-29 we find G-d’s answer to Moshe. He is able to see that he is not alone but he has men to help him. Even more importantly G-d is still with him and has not left him. Moshe, in Numbers 11:29, expresses his transformation.
But what happens the next time he is confronted by disappointment? Will he fall back into despair? In Numbers 12:1-3 we see the cruelest blow of all. Moshe’s own brother and sister talk about him, no, gossip about his choice of a wife. Those closest to us can hurt us the most and here we see Moshe rise above the hurt of his sibling’s gossip. In fact, in verse 12:3 we read that, “Now Moshe was very humble, more so than any other man on the face of the earth.”
B’Shallach (After he let go0 Ex 13-17
Torah Portion: B’Shallach (After he had let go) Exodus 13:17-17:16
HafTorah: Judges 4:4-5:31
Tonight we read of the exit from Egypt by Israel, crossing of the sea and the beginning of their journey to the Promise Land. I would like us to explore this Torah portion as it might relate to our own spiritual journey. Here in these verses we can see places where Israel grew spiritually and places where they failed – much as we do. In Exodus 3:12 we see the goal of their exit from Egypt. The goal was that they would serve HaShem on the mountain. This journey would be a process. (Exodus 13:17) The people needed time to grow and get Egypt out of them.
Masa’ei (Stages) Numbers 33-36
Torah Portion: Masa’ei (Stages) B’midbar (Numbers) 33:1-36:13
HafTorah: Jeremiah 2:4-28
In this Torah section that finishes the book of B’Midbar or Numbers it begins with a recount of the journeys of Israel from their exit from Egypt until their arrival to the border of their inheritance. It covers the setting up of the cities of refuge and the division of the land.
I want us to cover a few issues in these verses as well as look at the HafTorah in Jeremiah 2:4-28. Although we have spoken of the subject of journey’s before let me take a moment to refresh each of us. Here we see Moses setting out the journeys of Israel as they went out of Egypt. Really the first journey was the only one that went out of Egypt so why does Moses say it this way? Each of us has come out of Egypt but it takes awhile to get Egypt out of us. It also takes a life time for us to reach the spiritual maturity that G-d desires of us. Paul alludes to this in the New Testament in Acts 20:23-24. Our lives are a series of journeys, each has a purpose – to mature us, to bring us closer to our inheritance. I expect each of us are in or will be in such a journey. They are for our good and not our harm. I encourage you. G-d loves you and by allowing challenges into our lives He desires for us to grow in Him.
Vayetze (He went out) Gen 28-32
Torah Portion: Vayetze (He went Out) Genesis 28:10-32:3
HafTorah: Hosea 11:7-13:5
This week we look at more than 20 years of Jacob’s life. We see him from the time he leaves home until he journeys back. He leaves with just his clothes on his back and returns with wives, children and many flocks. He leaves and actually becomes the first Jew to live in the galut. I think we can learn a lot by looking at his life and what it shows us spiritually. Let us begin with the first verse of our portion, Genesis 28:10. Here we see Jacob leaving the Land, that place on which the eyes of G-d are continually on and going toward Haran, a place of wickedness. Sometimes we are called to leave our comfortable, spiritual surroundings to go into a world that does not know G-d. How do we deal with it? How do we keep ourselves grounded in truth? Jacob made sure he left from a safe place, called “The Place” in Hebrew. This means more than just any place. His last night was spent, as he later states, in the house of G-d. There G-d speaks to him and promises him to be his protector and to bring him home. He does the same for each of us. I believe He is with us each step of our journey as we walk in His promise. When we leave our house each day G-d goes with us. Like Jacob we should begin our day having spent time with Him. We should prepare ourselves spiritually by being with Him each day. Our challenges each day should be met with our connection with Him, our knowing of His way and how we are to conduct ourselves in the world.
Matot & Masa’ei (Bamidbar) Numbers 30-36
Torah Portion: Matot (Tribes) & Masa’ei (Stages) (Bamidbar) Numbers 30:2-36:13
HafTorah: Jeremiah 1:1-2:28
NT Matt 5:33-37; James 4:1-12
This week we finish the book of Bamidbar (Numbers) by looking at the last two portions of the book. We are also in the third week of mourning marked by the 17th of Tammuz which commemorates the day when the Romans broke through the walls of Jerusalem and ending with the fast day of 9th of Av which was the day the Romans burned Herod’s Temple. The sages say this catastrophe occurred because of brotherly hatred where the religious hierarchy was caught up in arguing and fighting among themselves. This fighting spread to the people causing them to fight among themselves more than fighting with the Romans. This can be tied into our current Torah sections of oaths and vows found in Numbers 30:2-3. Here we see the importance of being true to our word. If we make a vow or oath using G-d as our witness, we are to do all that proceeds out of our mouth. There are a lot of examples of oaths and vows in scripture. Genesis 21:31 Abraham and Avimelech made an oath at Beersheva. In Genesis G-d takes an oath to bless Avraham. He swears by His own name. In Hebrews 6:16 we read where an oath given was the end of every dispute. The point being we are to be truthful people. We are required to keep our word even if it costs us something or is embarrassing to us. Nothing but the truth is expected from G-d people. The New Testament takes this further in that it teaches we should be so honest that our yes or no should be seen by those around us as sufficient. No further word should have to be given.
Lech Lecha Genesis 12
Torah Portion: Lech Lecha Genesis 12:1-17:27
HafTorah: Hosea Isaiah 40:27-41:16
A Journey With An Unknown Destination
Tonight I want us to look at my very favorite Torah section. A Torah Section full of truths that we could talk about for days. Such as:
- G-d’s encounter with Abraham
- G-d’s promises to Abraham
A. Great Nation
B. Bless you
C. Make your name great
D. You shall be a blessing
E. Bless those who bless you
F. Curse those who curse you
G. All the earth will be blessed through you
H. Give your descendants the land