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Shabbat Message from Rabbi Aft

05/29/2015 02:03:47 PM



Dear Friends,


This week's portion of the week, Naso, has special meaning for me since this was the portion when I became Bar Mitzvah.  Although I didn't realize it at the time, this week's portion contains the Priestly Blessing where we ask G-d to bless us and guard us, shine G-d's Face Upon Us, Lift up God's Countenance upon us and grant us peace.


As I read various comments about this portion, I found a posting by Rabbi Brad Artson to be very meaningful.  (Excerpts of it are below)  


Rabbi Weiner has applied for a special grant for inclusion in our religious school where we will be able to provide special support and education to those who have special needs.  What a wonderful addition this will be for our congregation.  


As we read Rabbi Artson's words, I hope that we will be messengers of healing and will be less judgmental of people who may be "different" than us.


If you want further information about this new inclusion program or are interested in helping with it, please contact Rabbi Weiner.  Truly these new opportunities for learning and education are a blessing to us.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Bruce Aft 


"In Parashat Naso, the Torah relates God’s command to the Israelites “to remove from camp anyone with an eruption or a discharge and anyone defiled by a corpse.  Removable males and females alike; put them outside the camps so that they do not defile the camp of those in whose midst I dwell.”


This passage contains a troubling thought: that we should respond to those with physical differences or troubles by banishing them from the midst of the community.  Can it be that God of the Universe is repulsed by physical deformities or imperfections?  Does God really want us to expel these people to the fringes of our communities?  Can we blame them, then, when they walk away from their Judaism if their experience of Judaism is one of rejection and expulsion?


This topic is explored in Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah, the ancient rabbinic commentary to the Book of Numbers:  “When the Israelites came to the wilderness of Sinai, God said, ‘Is it consonant with the dignity of the Torah that I should give it to a generation of cripples?’ ”


The modern reader can’t help but cringe at the portrayal of a God so callous to those of us who are unable to walk, or hear, or see, or write without mechanical assistance.  Is this the God of compassion and mercy and love we pray to on Shabbat and our Holy Days?


In fact, the Midrash sets us up to expect God to justify their expulsion.  Yet that’s not what happens.


The Midrash continues, “What did God do?  God bade the angels come down to Israel and heal them.”


Rather than expelling the Israelites who were disabled, God effected a way to cure them and reintegrate them into the community.


We too need to find ways to deal with our propensity to judge based on appearances.  Like God, our primary efforts must be to assist people in not having to be defined by a physical disability.  By providing the funds for research and for distributing the necessary aids, we can allow more people to learn, to work productively, and to dream and then to live their dreams.  We can help each other achieve salvation.  We can make of ourselves God’s healing angels.


But there will remain people who cannot live “normal” lives, others who won’t look like everyone else, and others whose disabilities do prevent them from melting into a crowd.  So the task of becoming God’s healing angels, while always a priority, cannot be our only task.  The other priority must be to learn to see individuals, not their appearances, as paramount.  No one should be defined by an illness, a challenge or an affliction.


The Mishnah tells us, “Don’t look at the flask, but at what it contains.’  In teaching ourselves to see the inner sparks that light a person’s soul, rather than merely glancing at the casing that holds those precious assets of personality, aspiration and caring, we can act like God in the wilderness: healing when we can and transcending limits when we cannot."

Congregation Adat Reyim


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