Tag Archives: Naso

To be a Person of God, you must see your Fellow as a Person of God

Congregation Beth El began our celebration of Pride month with beautiful Torah written by my rabbinic colleague, Rabbi Rachel Marder.

TorahForPride

 

This teaching of Rabbi Simcha Bunin, the reminder that the world was created for our sakes, is found in Tractate Sanhedrin 37a of the Babylonian Talmud. The mishnah where this appears comes to this conclusion following the reminder that each of us was created from the same being, each of us are descendants of Adam HaRishon, the first human. The mishnah clarifies that each of us was created from a single being for the sake of peace, so that no single person can say, I am greater than you, or you are less than I am, because of how you look,  how you speak, how you dress, how you identify, or how you love.

The haftarah reading for Parashat Naso  introduces a woman who desperately wants to be a mother, and vows to become a Nazarite so that the message from an angel of God that she will have a child will come true. Once that child was born, at the end of the haftarah, he becomes the most well-known of all the Nazirites in our Bible, Samson.

The text tells us that a Malach Adonai, an angel of God comes to Manoach’s wife to give her this prophecy. But when she describes what happened to Manoach, she says something different. She refers to this beings as an Ish Elohim, a man or person of God. She was able to see the being who came to speak to her, and saw the divine nature of that person. She saw his very essence. And that was enough.

Ultimately during Pride month, and each and every day, that is what we are to do. We must see each individual — gay and straight, bisexual and  pansexual, transgender and cisgender, queer, and ally, as an Ish Elohim, an Isha Elohim, a person of God> We must see each person as an individual whose words are those of prophecy, whose voice matters, whose presence matters, whose life matters. For we are all unique. We are all different. And yet we are all the same, created form the same Adam HaRishon.

As this same mishnah on Sanhedrin 37a notes, while we are all fashioned, each human being, form the very first stamp of the very first human, not one of us resembles our fellow. We are each different. We are each unique. Therefore, we each must say that the world was created for my sake. And we must see each of us as an Ish Elohim, as an Isha Elohim. We must see each other as more than just an angel. We must see each other as a person of God, made in God’s Image.

-Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky

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What it Means to Become a Bar Mitzvah

I occasionally share on my blog the speeches, reflections, and divrei Torah that B’nai Mitzvah share with our congregation. I wanted to share the speech and words of Torah that a recent Bar Mitzvah shared with our congregation and community.

– Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky

What it Means to Become a Bar Mitzvah 

By Noah

Shabbat Shalom. As I stand up here celebrating becoming a bar mitzvah, I reflect on what exactly that means to me. To become a Bar Mitzvah, a son of God’s commandments, is to start acting like a Jewish adult, accepting responsibility, and serving as one of God’s messengers in this world. It means giving food to the poor, visiting the sick, standing up for all people, and fighting for civil rights and human rights.

It’s not right to just let someone bully another person so we must stand up for someone being treated unfairly. As a Bar Mitzvah, I will march in civil rights and justice marches and give money to organizations that fight for civil rights for all because I’ve experienced this struggle. My moms are gay and they shouldn’t be treated any different from any other person because of that. I just turned 13 years old and yet, it was only a few months ago that my moms were finally able to get married. We traveled to New York for their wedding because they couldn’t even get married in our home state, because IT’S NOT LEGAL IN FLORIDA.

I think it’s unfair that my moms are treated differently. If we truly take responsibility for all and stand up for them, then we need to be able to celebrate that we are all the same, made in God’s image, instead of being divided by how we are different.

In this week’s Torah portion, parashat Naso, we find a number of things. It begins with the requirements to take a census of select groups and clans of the people of Israel. It also mentions the Nazirites vow. But chapter 6 of the book of numbers concludes with what is likely the most famous of all blessings mentioned in the Torah:

May the lord bless you and keep you. May the lord deal kindly and graciously with you. May the Lord bestow God’s favor upon you and grant you peace.

This blessing, which is really three blessings rolled into one, is Birkat Kohanim, the priestly benediction. This blessing is a blessing that Moses tells Aaron to bless the people of Israel with. In fact the Kohanim chant this blessing to the entire congregation while standing on the bimah on the high holidays. It’s also known as the parental blessing because parents say this blessing to their children every Friday night on Shabbat.

This blessing is a blessing in which we pray for God to keep us safe. We pray for God to be kind to us and for us, as God’s messengers, to be kind to others. And finally, we pray for peace because knowing that we look out for the safety of others just as God looks out to us, and knowing that we must be kind to others just as we pray God is kind to us, we can bring peace to this world and peace in our lives. A blessing of peace, security, and grace is a blessing in which we stand up for everybody.

Judaism — and faith in general — is not just about offering blessings. It’s about making the promise of blessing a reality. We don’t just sit around and wait for God to act. We act.

It is our job to be the voice to those who are silent to stand up for the rights of all to ensure the protection God promises. That’s why I believe everybody should have equal rights. That’s why we must fight for the rights of all and specifically I fight for the rights of my two mothers. It is my obligation as a bar mitzvah — and our obligation as the Jewish community. We pray for peace but we work for peace: for peace in our lives, peace in this community, and peace in this world.

As a Bar Mitzvah, son of commandments which takes responsibility for my actions and the actions of others, it is my job, it is all of our jobs, to make this blessing a reality. So as Jews and as B’nai Mitzvah, children of God’s commandments, let’s not only ask for God’s blessings, but let’s recognize the blessings in our own lives and make this blessing, the priestly benediction, a reality.

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