of the Festival Reading
To be read on Shavuot, 6 Sivan 5777/May 31, 2017
Torah: Exodus 19:1 - 20:23, Numbers 28:26-31; Haftora:
Ezekiel 1:1-28; 3:12
The Torah reading for
Shavuot describes the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai which occurred
on this day, where G-d revealed Himself to the Children of Israel, entered
into an eternal covenant with them, communicated to the them Ten Commandments,
and summoned Moses to the top of the mountain to receive the Torah
of the Weekly Reading
To be read on Shabbat Naso - 9 Sivan 5777 /June 3
Torah: Numbers 4:21-7:89
Haftorah: Judges 13:2-25 (the birth of Shimshon,
connecting to the section about nazir)
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 1
Naso is the 2nd Reading out of 10 in Numbers and it contains
8632 letters, in 2264 words, in 176 verses
Overview: Naso opens with tallying the three
Levite families and defining their specific services in the dismantling,
carrying, and assembly of the Tabernacle throughout the Jews' desert
journeys. Next, Jews with various types of impurities are forbidden
to enter different sections of the camp. Then, G-d commands the Jews
about the restitution for sinning against a fellow Jew. Also discussed
is the command to bring 'trumah'-crop-gifts to the priests. Next, the
Torah speaks about the suspected adulteress, the test of her fidelity,
and the consequences of her guilt or innocence. The parsha continues
to discuss the vows, laws and scarifices of Nazirites. The following
verses are the priestly blessing to the Jews (which are recited daily).
The parsha concludes by listing the donations and sacrifices that each
tribal prince brought to the Tabernacle.
essay from Rabbi
Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
(for a free weekly email subscription, click
This coming Tuesday evening and Wednesday (and Thursday
outside of Israel) is the holiday of Shavuos. The tzadik, Rabbi
Yisroel of Rushin, was a Chassidic Rebbe with a large following. He
would speak each Shabbos during the meal of the day, with only one
exception - the Shabbos before Shavuos. Shavuos is both the celebration
of the giving of the Torah and the holiday of First Fruits. He would
say that standing before the giving of the Torah was for him like
a farmer with his uncollected harvest spread out in the fields. Last
year's harvest is finished. And this year's harvest has not yet not
yet been brought in
How do we prepare for receiving the Torah? The traditional reason
( from the Tur) that the Torah portion Bamidbar (and sometimes Nasso)
is always read before Shavuos is to guarantee that the portion B'chukosai
is NOT the last portion read. The ancient scholars knew that B'chukosai
and its curses were not the appropriate preparation for receiving
the Torah. Receiving the Torah, the Jewish people's divine mission,
has to be with joy and happiness.
- - - - - - - - - -
At the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Naso,
the national census that G-d commanded continues, counting the Jewish
people and in particular the Levites, which was started towards the
end of last week's portion. The opening verse says, "Raise the
head of Gershon, them also." Rashi explains that G-d is saying,
do just as I commanded you, (count the Levite family of Gershonas
you did) the (Levite) family of Kehas.
Gershon was the first born. Firstborns have an important status and
are given an extra share of honor. They were meant to be the priests,
serving G-d in the Mishkan (the portable Temple). Only because
they did not come to help Moshe in the slaying of the idol worshipping
perpetrators during the sin of the Golden Calf was that privilege
taken from them. Why were we not told to count Gershon first? Why
did we start with Kehas?
One reason given (see Meam Loez) for counting Kehas first is that
their clan was assigned to carry the most holy vessels of the Mishkan,
among them the Holy Ark. This privilege was allotted to them because
of the great personages that came from their family, among them Moshe
and Aharon. It would not have been appropriate to count Gershon first.
The Torah is infinite. Now that we know the reason for this inconsistency,
maybe we also can see a hint in their names which will shed further
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the name Gershon is from the word
garesh, to divorce. It is a hint to serving G-d by separating
ourselves and pushing away the negative, like stopping to do a sin
or quitting a bad habit. In Hebrew this is called sur m'rah,
pushing away evil.
The name Kehas is from the verse in Genesis (49/10) "And he will
collect ('yikhas' in Hebrew) together the nations". It
is a hint to serving G-d by gathering and doing positive actions,
like doing a mitzvah or deciding to begin a positive behavior.
In Hebrew this is called aseh tov, doing good.
Gershon was born before Kehas. In general, the order in life as it
is in spiritual work is first to push away evil and then move on to
doing good. When we prepare a palace for a king, first we clean out
all the refuse (pushing out the evil) and only after do we bring in
the beautiful vessels (doing good).
So after all of that, why did the Torah command us to start with counting
Kehas? Because the Torah wanted to teach us an important lesson: Even
if it is first, the whole purpose of pushing away evil is only as
a preparation for doing good. On a macro level, what is the true intention?
To do good!
In 1941 the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok, instituted
a program that provided Jewish children in New York public schools
with an hour of weekly Jewish studies. Every Wednesday afternoon hundreds
of student volunteers from Lubavitch Yeshiva would interrupt their
studies for several hours, travel to their appointed school, gather
the children to a local synagogue and teach them about their traditions,
then escort them back.
One studious young man wrote to the Rebbe asking to be excused from
participating as he felt he was wasting his time. First, he wrote,
he did not feel he was accomplishing very much. He said prayers with
the children each week but did not feel it was having any long lasting
effect. Second, the whole process took 3 or 4 hours at least, time
that would be better spent furthering his rabbinical studies.
The Rebbe answered, "I want you to know, on Wednesday afternoons,
all of the souls in Gan Eden, including Moses himself, envy you for
this unique opportunity you have to say Shema Yisroel and recite
a blessing with a Jewish child. Their souls no longer have the opportunity
to interact with Jewish children and bring them closer to their Father
in Heaven. Do you know what they would give for the privilege you
have?" (from Seeds of Widom).
Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom, Shaul
(for a free weekly email subscription, click
For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this
week's Reading, see the archive.
THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org
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Kabbalists, and more,
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Laws and Customs
By Avraham Sutton
Kabbalah explains the mystical reasons for eating dairy on Shavuot for
the sweet, nourishing words of Torah are likened to milk.
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