"The Power of One"
Dvar Torah from Rabbi Saul I. Grife
Parshat HaShavuah, the Torah portion of the week is Bemidbar, from the Book of Numbers, 1:1 through 4:20. "Bemidbar" means "in the wilderness (or desert) and relates the sojournings of the Israelites out of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land. This parsha begins the 4thbook of the Torah. There are 10 parshiyot in Sefer Bemidbar. We will finish reading this book on July 14th.
Though the book is entitled "In the desert" in Hebrew, its English moniker is derived from the various censuses that occur at the outset of the book. First, the fighting men aged 20 years and upward were numbered. The total came to 603,550 soldiers. The tribe of Judah supplied the most men with 74,600; the tribe of Menasheh offered the fewest at 32,200. Moshe and Joshua designed to be fully prepared for the future war against the Canaanite tribes to conquer their future homeland so they became well aware of how many men they would command to accomplish this task.
Chapter 2 describes the location of each tribe as they marched in the desert. In the middle of the Israelites was the Tabernacle, protected by the Levites. The tribes marched in formation around them on every side. The message to the people was that no tribe was greater than the next; each fulfilled an important role within the assembly. Therefore, each tribe was equidistant from the center and the Tabernacle housing the spirit of the Lord.
Next the Levites are numbered. Since they were exempt from military duty because they were responsible to care for the Tabernacle, they were counted separately. Their totals came to 22,000.
Next, the Israelite first-born were accounted for. The first-born enjoyed the benefits of primogeniture plus they were unique because they had to be redeemed from the service of the Lord. Their number was 22,273. For everyone who is not a first-born - take comfort in knowing that many of our Biblical heroes were the youngest of their families!!
This list of censuses at the beginning of Sefer Bemidbar is considered a proof that these stories and numbers are true. It is argued that no one would conjure up these totals out of thin air. Moreover, their preciseness lends to the veracity of the narrative. Scholars point to the lists of numbers along with the detailed genealogies that frequent the Torah tales as proof of the truth of these stories. Who would make up such lengthy lists of names? Who would conjure up such detailed numbers? The faith of many Jews is based on the truth of the Torah stories. Therefore, these considerations make all the difference to them.
Lately, BTBJ has struggled with gathering just 10 people for our Shabbat and daily minyanim.
This morning, 9 of us gathered in shul. Because we lacked a minyan, we were unable to read the Torah and offer the full service. One of our members wanted to say Kaddish too. Thankfully, our custom is to open the Ark when we have 9 and count a Torah scroll as 10 so we were able to recite the Kaddish. Thank God for the 9 who came; if we had numbered one less a congregant would have been unable to recite Kaddish to memorialize their loved one.
At one time or another during the year each one of us is counting on there being a minyan in shul so we can say Kaddish too. In a congregation of nearing 300 families, it is greatly unfortunate that we are struggling with this enterprise. Most of the time we only need one or two additional people to make our minyan. This collective responsibility falls upon each of us as members of BTBJ and caring friends to each other. If all of us could make the time to attend a few more minyanim this problem would be solved. Members who come for a minyan are often disheartened when we fail to gather the requisite number. Members who come for Kaddish feel bereft of the opportunity to say Kaddish when our numbers don't add up. This morning just one more person would have made all the difference. Regardless of our personal attitudes towards Tradition, religion and prayer, the BTBJ community bears the responsibility to provide a minyan throughout the year so none of us need to worry whether we'll be able to join in prayer or not. None of us would like to come to shul expecting a minyan only to find 9 or less of us have gathered. Please consider how each one of us - the power of One - can help solve this critical issue in our synagogue's life. Isn't it nice to know that each one of us can greatly contribute to solving this problem? Isn't it nice that none of us has to tackle this all alone? There is so much to be gained from being at minyan. Not only do we support each other but we get a chance to further our knowledge of prayer, Hebrew and the Torah readings. A knowledgeable Jew is a strong Jew! I hope that each one of us will see ourselves as the answer to the problem - because we are!! Our synagogue will greatly suffer if we can no longer support our Shabbat and weekly minyanim. The summer is rapidly approaching when minyan attendance is often the lowest during the year. We are planning to make Shabbat morning services more engaging by meeting outside, coming casual and shortening the time of summer services. More on all this to follow. I implore everyone to consider how each one of us can contribute to the numbers, strength and vibrancy of religious life here at BTBJ by supporting our minyanim! It lies within each of us to be a part of the solution. All of us will benefit from strengthening our BTBJ minyanim!
Our ancestors in the desert needed each and every person to fulfill a position to strengthen the community and to insure their success throughout the desert wanderings and their entrance into the Promised Land. And so it is with us here at BTBJ! Each one of us is needed to address and command our community obligations. Each one of us can add so much. Each one of us can make all the difference. Concerning our minyan... each one of us can turn a gathering of 9 into 10 just by showing up.
Who knows? The next person who needs and is looking for a minyan could be YOU!
Shabbat Shalom to all!
Shabbat Bemidbar 5778
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