SHAVUOT AND THE TORAH PORTION FOR THIS SHABBAT May 29-30, 2020
Mo’adim l’simcha – a good festival period!
We have finally arrived at the Holiday that counting the ‘Omer has been anticipating and leading us to, starting with the Barley and ending with the Wheat offerings, we rejoice in the giving of the Torah, which is likened to milk and honey. We stand at Mount Sinai with all the generation of our people to receive it. [Suggested reading Ex. 19 and 20.]Shavuot began last evening, and in some traditions, extends through tomorrow evening in the Diaspora. As in Israel, the Reform Movement observes one day, which ends this evening with the beginning of another Holiday: Shabbat.
Again, with the counting! Whether counting the ‘Omer, counting the days till the full end of our shelter-in-place, taking part in the US Census or reading about other counts in Torah, the counting continues in the Torah Portion for this Shabbat. And what is the point? The point is that each and every one of us counts.
Many others have stated this truth in more articulate and eloquent ways. The bottom lines is that in expressing our talents and abilities, in our efforts at Tikkun ‘Olam (repairing the world), each of us contributes to the overall good in our own way and situation. This means stepping out of our confinement, whether emotional, spiritual, psychological or other, in ways that protect one and all and still foster the care, concern and cooperation needed here and now.
That gets us to the Parashat for this Shabbat. The title, “Naso” (נָשֹׂא—Hebrew for “take a census” or “lift up”), is very interesting. There are several other words in Hebrew for counting. And, so, as others have pointed out, there is much more to “counting” than meets the eye. [Suggested reading Rabbi Jonathan Sacks D’var Torah on Naso at http://rabbisacks.org/lifting-
NASO – Take a Census [elevate]
The Eternal One spoke to Moses: “Take a census of the Gershonites also, by their ancestral house and by their clans.” – Numbers 4:21-22
• A census of the Gershonites, Merarites, and Koathites between the ages of thirty and fifty is conducted and their duties in the Tabernacle are detailed. (4:21-49)
• God speaks to Moses concerning what to do with ritually unclean people, repentant individuals, and those who are suspected of adultery. (5:1-31)
• The obligations of a nazirite vow are explained. They include abstaining from alcohol and not cutting one’s hair. (6:1-21)
• God tells Moses how to teach Aaron and his sons the Priestly Blessing. (6:22-27)
• Moses consecrates the Sanctuary, and the tribal chieftains bring offerings. Moses then speaks with God inside the Tent of Meeting. (7:1-89)
NOTE: Sometimes Parashat Naso is separated into Naso I and Naso II as follows:
Naso I (Numbers 4:21-5:31)
Naso II (Numbers 6:1-7:89)
Many Jews recite the Priestly Blessing, Numbers 6:24–26, as the first section of the Torah to which they turn after reciting the Blessings of the Torah in the morning. And the Priestly Blessing is reflected in the closing prayer for peace of the Amidah prayer in each of the three prayer services.
The haftarah for the parashah is Judges 13:2–25, which is about the birth of Samson, the nazirite.
TALMUD – translation from Sefaria.org:
“That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.” ― Rabbi Hillel
Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a
In the Ashkenazi tradition Yizkor (Hebrew for “May he remember”) is recited for the dead during Synagogue services on Shavuot – on day 2 for those who observe two days. Among Sefardim, those called to the Torah may recite Ashkavah (אַשְׁכָּבָה “laying to rest”; the prayer is also known as Hashkavah) for their dead relatives.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of brutality, abuse, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, violence, and war; for all those in need of physical, emotional and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim; those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of disease, brutality, natural disasters, war, violence; and of the Holocaust, who died at this time of year and have us to say “Kaddish” for them. “Zichronam liv’rachah” – May their memories be for blessing.
Tragedy continues to strike at individuals and groups of our society and community. As Jews we have a responsibility one to another and to the world at large, which is part of Tikkun ‘Olam. In “Mishkan T’filah/A Reform Siddur”, from the Kaddish we pray:
‘Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom ‘aleinu v’al kol Yisrael, v’al kol yoshvei teiveil, v’imru: Amen.
May the One who makes peace in the high heavens make peace for us, for all Israel and all who inhabit the earth. Amen.
Chag Shavuot Sameach – Shabbuot Bueno i Dulce!
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!