THIS WEEK'S TORAH READING:
: Numbers 1: 1 - 4:20
This week we begin with the book of
, (Numbers). As the English title of the book suggests, it starts with a census of the Israelites in the desert at the beginning of the second year of their travels. After counting each tribe, the total number of men over the age of 20 is given at 603,550. The people are then arranged around the portable Tabernacle and Tent of Meeting
) according to their tribes. The Levites are to be in charge of both the Tent and the Tabernacle.
Exodus 19:1 - 20:23
We read of the Revelation on Mt. Sinai, including the Ten Commandments.
Deuteronomy 14:22 - 16:77
The reading on the second day of
is found on all three of the
(Pilgrimage festivals) in the diaspora. Regarding
it states, "You shall count off seven weeks; start to count when the sickle is first put to standing grain. Then you shall observe the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot)...(Deut 16:9 0 10).
Tonight marks the 49th day of the
, the counting of the days from
vuot. The kabbalists understood the significance of the number 7, which is a unique creation of the Torah. A week could have been 10 days, or even 5 days, as there is nothing "natural" about a week (the months and seasons on the other hand do have a more natural source, one being tied to the phases of the moon and the other to the sun). Since the world was created in 7 days, from the very beginnings of Judaism the number 7 was recognized as a number signifying completion. 7 cycles of 7, taught the kabbalists, was a "complete completion", or a sense of perfection.
At the end of this cycle of 7, comes the holiday of
, on which we celebrate Revelation or the giving of the Torah, which we regard with this same sense of perfection. This is reflected in the psalms, which states
Torat Adonai temima meshivat nafesh,
the Torah (or teaching) of
is perfect, restoring the soul (Psalm 19:8). There is a seemingly perfect balance as we have come 7 cycles of weeks since our liberation from Egypt, and now we are ready to serve God instead of other human beings.
Saturday night when
begins (at 9:00 pm), we will study the Book of Ruth, which is traditionally read on
(we will read from it Monday morning). Only four chapters long, The Book of Ruth is one of the most fascinating books of the Bible. We will explore what it says about our relationship to non-Jews and what that might mean for us. I hope you can join us for this fascinating study session. It is the perfect way to celebrate this holiday.