Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Bamidbar - 5775

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the first portion in the Book of Bamidbar (In the Wilderness), known in English as the Book of Numbers. The Parasha tells of the division of the people into tribes, the number of men twenty years old and over in each tribe, and the responsibilities of the Levites who will be carrying the Tabernacle. As you know, this journey that could have taken several days or weeks at a maximum will take forty years of wandering.

It took forty years for the former slaves to become a united people who feel liberated and ready to conquer and settle the Promised Land. The forty years in the wilderness also served to develop faith in God. There were many struggles on the road to the Promised Land, but they will arrive as a united people who rely on God for their survival and successes.

When Shabbat ends this week, it will usher in the Festival of Shavuot - one of the three Pilgrimage Festivals. It is known as Hag Habikurim - the Festival of the First Fruits - to remember the days of old when an offering of the first fruits from the harvest was brought to the Temple.

It is also known as Zman Matan Toratenu - the day of the Giving of the Torah - when the Children of Israel witnessed the Revelation at Mount Sinai and were given the Ten Commandments.

For us here in America, we have an opportunity for a three-day celebration - Shabbat, followed by two days of Shavuot - and we don't have to worry about missing work since this is also Memorial Day weekend.

Being at the synagogue on this Memorial Day is most appropriate and a fine way to commemorate that great day at Sinai, and at the same time remember and reflect on the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have given their lives in America's various battlefields so that we can live in Freedom.

Celebrate Shabbat and Shavuot and commemorate Memorial Day this year by attending services, if you can.

Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameach!

Avram