"In Gratitude to All those who Have Served and are Serving!"
Dvar Torah from Rabbi Saul I. Grife
Parshat HaShavuah, the Torah portion this week is Naso, from Sefer Bemidbar, the Book of Numbers 4:21 - 7:89. "Naso" means "to bear, carry or count". Here the word is used to tell Aaron to count the number of those who would be responsible for the Temple under his aegis. Those aged 30 to 50 years old who were able to serve at that time numbered 8,580. Each tribe and individual was given a particular responsibility towards caring for the Tabernacle.
Chapter 6 outlines the laws of the Nazir, or one uniquely dedicated to the service of God. Such a person vowed to live a life apart from the community for a specific and limited period of time. To demonstrate that he had removed himself from community norms he was not allowed to drink wine, cut his hair or tend to the dead even including his immediate family. The prophet Samson is Jewish history's most famous Nazirite. The beginning of his story constitutes this week's Haftorah (Judges 13:2 - 25)
In Bemidbar's first two parshiyot (portions) we learn that the Israelite fighting men, the first-born, the priests and the Levites were all counted so that we knew how many there were to attend to the duties expected of them. Without enough participants to form an army and to care for religious life, the Israelites might not have been able to fight for Canaan and tend to the spiritual requirements of the people. It appears that there were enough to serve in all these capacities; the Torah never says that more were needed. Everyone had their tasks to perform. The Torah goes so far to say that no one could do the job expected of another; everyone had to fulfill their own challenges. From this we learn that there are certain responsibilities that we and only we can be expected to perform. Sometimes others can help us and sometimes we can stand in for others in their stead. But there are times when what must be done is entirely up to us. Hopefully we will try to accomplish those goals that are expected of us and cannot be tackled by someone else!
This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. Besides the start of summer fun that lots of us are planning, I hope that each one of us will take sacred moments to give thanks either in prayer, word or deed to those who have given their lives to defend our country and to all those who have served or are currently serving our nation by wearing the uniform and colors of our country. I am so glad that our troops are so appreciated by our citizens these days! It wasn't that long ago, as in during the Vietnam War, that so many troops were despised for fighting the war they were sent to wage. Those who serve today, like the Israelites of old, are charged with a specific agenda and are not allowed to perform the duties of someone else. This weekend, military cemeteries and other sites marking the final resting places of soldiers will be visited in remembrance and appreciation to those who made the "ultimate sacrifice" for the United States - for us! Let us all take some time this weekend to demonstrate this appreciation for both those who have died and those who serve today. Shabbat morning we will memorialize those who have died and honor those who are presently serving during services (which will begin at 10:00 am this Saturday morning). May we thank those who have fought for us and honor those who stand to defend us. The situations with North Korea, Iran and others remind us that we still live in a world where potential conflict could frighteningly be only one remark, one threat or one move away! May we live in a world where one day we can set aside our armies and truly learn to live in peace with each other! Civilization has never known that epoch and maybe it is but a dream. Nevertheless, it's a pleasant dream that we pray for, sing for, speak about and work towards. Who knows? Who can say that such a world will never be born?!
I hope you all enjoy this weekend that signals the start of summer. I invite those of you who will be around to come and help make our Shabbat morning minyan at 10:00 am on this Memorial Day weekend. May all those who have died for our country rest eternally in peace! May we appreciate all those who are serving now. May they return home to their families in health and in peace when their tours of duty are done.
Shabbat Shalom to all!
Shabbat Naso 5778
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