Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Lineage of Torah

The Book of Numbers starts this week and starts with an instruction to "count the heads" (1:2) of all the households, But the Hebrew word se-u could also mean, "lift the heads". Why would the Torah use such ambiguous language? The great commentator Rashi informs us that prior to the census each Jew was required to produce a book of their lineage. The Midrash adds that producing this book was also required to be able to receive the Torah. Why is receiving the Torah dependent upon having this book of lineage? This sounds very class conscious and elitist - so what about the poor Jew like me who would have problems telling you about anyone older than my great-grandparents, about whom I could tell you very little to start? I think that “producing the head-raising lineage” here is something very different - and in fact it is what we celebrate with the holiday of Shavuot next week. More than rattling off the names and dates of your forebears and when they lived and died, it's about the Wisdom and Traditions that united them and unites them with us. Any Jew who puts himself or herself within that lineage of those who are willing to accept the call is counted. This Shavuot may we all be able to elevate and lift up our heads, our minds, our hearts, and our deeds, so as to take our place within that lineage. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Benson

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