Rabbi Ismar Schorsch
The book of Numbers opens on a triumphant note. A census of all conscriptable males above the age of twenty yields precisely 603,550, a figure that implies a total population of over two million Israelites. God's promise to Abraham, "I will make of you a great nation" (Genesis 12:2), has been fulfilled. When Jacob, his grandson, relocated to Egypt, his household numbered but seventy persons (Genesis 46:27). Several hundred years later, freed from slavery and about to traverse the wilderness, the clan has grown into a formidable nation, with the military might to reach and conquer its destination.
The haftarah drawn from the prophet Hosea adds a ringing confirmation of God's hand in this population explosion: "The number of the people of Israel shall be like that of the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted" (Hosea 2:1). A nation without number is a sign of God's favor. The restoration which Hosea foresees will mirror a prior moment of greatness squandered in faithlessness. As understood by the midrash, Hosea's words apply to the distant past as well as to the remote future.
According to the midrash, God used a different simile to assure each of the three patriarchs, whose wives had such difficulty conceiving, that their progeny would proliferate beyond number. To Abraham, God promised that his seed one day would be as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:5) to Isaac, as the sand (Hosea 2:1), and to Jacob, as the dust of the earth (Genesis 28:14). Fully appreciative of God's fidelity, Moses in his final discourse intentionally reiterated the simile of the stars in describing Israel's population: "The Lord your God has multiplied you until you are today as numerous as the stars in the sky" (Deuteronomy 1:10). The simile was predicated upon the just-completed census of the generation of young men born in the desert that came to 601,730 (Numbers 26:51). In other words, the forty-year wilderness sojourn was framed by two nearly identical censuses that proved the same point: God's promise to the patriarchs had not been idle rhetoric (B'midbar Rabbah 2:12).
The midrash identifies at least two occasions when the Israelites were subject to a census. Despite the upbeat tone of our parashah, counting heads was usually fraught with danger. For example, before the construction of the Tabernacle, Moses was instructed to register all males over twenty in a circuitous fashion. Each was to "pay the Lord a ransom for himself on being enrolled, that no plague may come upon them through their being enrolled" (Exodus 30:12).
Thus to calculate the population, one counted coins, not heads. Since the taking of a census was generally associated with conscription for war, the procedure aroused anxiety and never enacted lightly.
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for additional insights on this week's parsha and others, visit The JTS Torah Commentary archive: http://www.jtsa.edu
May Their Memories Be For a Blessing
5/23/2014 (23 Iyar)
5/26/2014 (26 Iyar) Maurice Gordon
5/29/2014 (29 Iyar)
5/30/2014 (1 Sivan)
5/31/2014 (2 Sivan) Esther B. Goldenberg
Sandra G. Rose
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Friday, May 23rd
6 p.m. Minha
9 a.m. Services, Sanctuary
10 a.m. Supervised Youth Room, lower level
Melanie Lauren Soverinsky will become a bat mitzvah.
Melanie is the daughter of Brenda and Randy Soverinsky and sister of Michael and Nathan. Proud grandparents are Lou and Sally Soverinsky, the late Marilyn Soverinsky, Judy and Shel Gold. Kiddush Lunch* is sponsored by Lou and Sally Soverinsky and Judy and Shel Gold in honor of their granddaughter Melanie becoming a bat mitzvah.
SHABBAT IN THE PARK RETURNS THE SECOND FRIDAY OF JUNE, JULY AND AUGUST AT BLOOMER PARK iN WEST BLOOMFIELD.
SAVE THE DATE
! TIKKUN LEIL SHAVUOT TUESDAY EVENING, JUNE 3RD. All night study sessions concluding with a dawn shacharit service.
Click here to help with Kiddush Lunch
*Kiddush Lunch is available through donations to the Kiddush Lunch Fund, the generosity of weekly sponsors, and volunteer efforts of our congregants and regular attendees. Please
e-mail or call the synagogue office if you would like to sponsor a kiddush lunch.To sponsor as part of a "group," please e-mail Joanna Abramson
or Mindy Shuback
. You may also make a donation to the Kiddush Lunch Fund by clicking here.To sign up to help prepare Kiddush Lunch please use the "volunteer spot" button above.
May 24th, 8:15 p.m. at the home of Cheryl and Mitch Parker. Text learning, light refreshments and havdalah. Host homes will rotate weekly. Please e-mail Mitch Parker if you plan to attend.
SNL: Saturday Night Learning.
MONDAY, MEMORIAL DAY, MAY 26TH
8:30 a.m. Shacharit
5 p.m. Minha/Maariv
To Marlene Margolis and her family on the passing of Marlene's mother in law, Sarah "Sally" Margolis.
UPCOMING SIMCHA CELEBRATIONS
May 31 Elianna Shelli Orel will become a bat mitzvah during Shabbat morning services. Elianna is the daughter of Matt and Lori Orel and sister of Aaron. Elianna is also the granddaughter of Stanley and Doreen Millman and Leo (z"l) and Beverly Orel.
June 14 Aviva Elisheva Lupovitch will become a bat mitzvah. Aviva is the daughter of Alissa Citron and Jeffrey Lupovitch and sister of Miriam, Naomi and Ezra. Aviva is the granddaughter of Jan and Henry Citron and Rochelle and Aaron Lupovitch.
MACCABI INFO AND WALK FOR ISRAEL
Macabbi 2014. Registration is open for Artists/Athletes, Coaches, Host Families, Volunteers and Sponsors. JCC Maccabi Hotline: 248-432-5500, www.jccdet.org
JTS Metro Detroit Gala
Thursday, May 29th, 5:30 p.m.
Adat Shalom Synagogue
B'nai Israel Synagogue honorees: Ruth and Mark Webber. Please call the JTS office: 248-258-055 for more information or register online: www.jtsa.edu/Detroit2014
Upcoming Youth and Family Activities
JUNE 7 YOUTH SHABBAT
Our youth will lead and participate in the service. We will honor our graduating high school seniors. please e-mail the synagogue with your high school senior's Hebrew and English names, and post-high school plans.
To stay current on all youth and family activities, contact Ilana Glazier to join the B'nai Israel Families Facebook Group.
"Reflections on the Siddur," with Dr. Mitch Parker
Saturdays, 11-11:45 a.m.
May 24 June 7 and 21
Mitch will focus on Ashrei, Aleinu, the Kaddish, Adon Olam, Yigdal, Hallel and Birkat Hamazon.
Class meets in the lower level, Room 9.
Want to brush up on your prayer skills, tropes or birkat hamazon?
22 David Feber
22 Karen Lovinger
23 Shai Ohana
26 Robin Rosen
27 Jay Kozlowski
28 Susan Birnholtz
28 Hilda Hamburger
30 Jordan Rosen
31 Irvin Kappy
31 Marlene Myers
If your birthday or anniversary information is not listed, please email the synagogue so we can update our records.
Caring Community Information
Refuah Sh'leimah/Wishing a Speedy Recovery.
Please e-mail Michael Golob or call the synagogue: 248-432-2729 to add a name to our communal mishebeirach list.
Shiva assistance: To assist in providing a shiva meal for BI member families and/or if you are able to lead a shiva minyan, please e-mail the synagogue.
B'nai Israel Synagogue is affiliated with USCJ, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.