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Expressing our Responsibilities Toward Others

06/06/2024 10:20:38 AM


Rabbi Micah Peltz

We begin the book of B’Midbar, the fourth book of the Torah, this Shabbat.  Those 40 years of wandering the desert you’ve heard about?  Thirty-eight of them happen here.  At the outset, the book sets the stage for the Israelite’s long journey (though they don’t know just yet how long it will be).  It does this by taking a census of the people and arranging the camp.  At the beginning of the second chapter, God tells Moshe and Aaron that “The Israelites shall camp each with his standard, under the banners of their ancestral house; they shall camp around the Tent of Meeting at a distance.”  As is often case, an ancient midrash sees more in these words than simple organizational instructions.  It says that the three symbols that the verse speaks about teach us something about our identities.  A person’s identity consists of three elements: the self (the standard), the family (the ancestral banner), and the community (the Tent of Meeting).  These things help make us who we are, and they also express the responsibilities we have.  We are responsible for our self-care and thriving, but to paraphrase the well-known teaching of Hillel, being only for our selves makes us selfish.  We are also responsible to others.  Those closest to us to us first, but we cannot end there.  We also have responsibilities for members of our community, the Jewish people, and to all human beings.  It is impossible to fulfill all of these responsibilities at once, but we do what we can to make a difference at each of these levels.  This Shabbat, we’ll have a chance to not only celebrate a Bat Mitzvah and other simhas, we will also be able to express our responsibilities towards others.  Our Social Advocacy Committee leads us in this week in our observance of Wear Orange Shabbat.  This Shabbat honors the communities, families and individuals impacted by gun violence and calls for meaningful action to save lives. Also this Shabbat, we will welcome two members of Kibbutz Be’eri in Israel.  This kibbutz was attacked on October 7 and our Jewish Federation has been helping to support its residents and rebuilding.  Hugo Wolaj and Nieve Higgins will join for services and speak with us after Kiddush in the Rose Chapel/Jenofsky Bet Midrash about their experience and the rebuilding of Be’eri.  I’d also encourage you to watch this powerful music video by the Israeli band Hatikvah-6 about Kibbutz Be’eri entitled “Superheroes.”   When we help others we express the values that are a major part of our identities.  I hope that you will join us for this important and meaningful Shabbat.

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784