This week's double portion, B''har/ B'chukotai includes this famous phrase that appears on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia: "Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof" (Leviticus 25:10). The bell holds specialy significance for Americans, especially American Jews.
B’midbar opens with a commandment to take a census. It appears straightforward: as our ancestors traveled towards the Promised Land, they would have military encounters. Moses needed to know the cold, hard numbers of who was eligible to serve in the defense forces. The text goes into great detail on how to count the men who could serve.
In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, YHVH reminds Moses, “Speak to the Israelites: When men or women individually commit any wrong toward a fellow human being, thus breaking faith with the Eternal, and they realize their guilt, they shall confess the wrong that they have done. They shall make restitution in the principal amount and add one-fifth to it, giving it to the one who was wronged.” (Numbers 5:6-7). The instruction to admit wrongdoing and make restitution applies to those we like and those we don't like.
In Numbers 9:7 some people who cannot offer the Passover sacrifice at its set time approach Moses saying what amounts to, “We want to bring a sanctified offering to God. It isn’t fair that we are not allowed to do it.” God's answer is that they can still participate, but a month later on a day called Pesach Sheini – the Second Passover.
In this week’s Torah portion, Sh’lach L’cha, 12 scouts are sent into the Promised Land to bring back a report to the former slaves in the wilderness. Ten of them report that the Land flows with milk and honey, but it will be difficult to conquer. Two spies present a different point of view, projecting an energizing sense of hope over a paralyzing sense of fear.
We hold our leaders in government, sports, entertainment, and religion to high standards both in performing their duties and in exhibiting good behavior. But is it right for us to scrutinize their behavior outside their realms of responsibility? Parashat T’tzaveh says, “yes.”
In Ki Tisa, Moses, begs God to let him understand the Divine. And yet, we see Moses as having more access to God than any other man. If Moses cannot comprehend God, how can we hope to understand God’s ways?
In Vayak’heil/P’kudei, the people bring so many contributions to build the Tabernacle that Moses turns some of the gifts away. Is it ever right to limit contributions that are gifts from the heart?
The Book of Leviticus opens with a detailed description of the sacrificial offerings brought by the ancient Israelites. One remnant of these practices is the importance of our intentions when we enter into prayer. Like the Israelite who brought an offering without blemish, we should strive to bring our prayers without blemish, too.