Beha'alotecha – Numbers 8:1 - 12:16

Facebook_CoverDesign_BehaAlotechaHow does ritual allow for the building of community practice?

Ongoing commitment to communal ritual requires trust. Another key for community building I learned from Dr. Sarale Shadmi-Wortman (Oranim College of Education) while on the Rabin Bay Area Leadership Mission to Israel is Mutual Trust: The "willingness of individuals to join and help others without deep personal familiarity nor with any expectation, just the conviction that this is what other members of a community are doing, so I will do it, too."

In Parashat Beha'alotecha, as Aaron is commanded to light the lamps of the menorah, the focus is on just how to raise the sparks to create a luminous presence. For those Israelites unable to bring the Paschal offering at the appointed time, there is another chance with the institution of a Second Passover. Also, dissatisfaction with the manna from heaven sets in as the Israelites yearn for new tastes.

Each of these scenarios involves an initial enthusiasm that fades, so that the challenge remains how to hold onto that inspiration through a daily spiritual practice. The mosaic wisdom here is instructive, specifically in imparting his (Moses') spirit to the appointed seventy elders. Spiritual practice is bolstered in a community of practice where mutual trust is a given.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork depicts "the cloud of the Lord" that leads the Israelites through their years of desert wandering. "Whether it was for two days, a month, or a year, that the cloud lingered to hover over the Mishkan, the children of Israel would encamp and not travel, and when it departed, they traveled." (Numbers 9:22) Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Naso -- Numbers 4:21 – 7:89

Facebook_CoverDesign_NasoAnother key community building lesson I learned from Dr. Sarale Shadmi-Wortman (Oranim College of Education) during the Rabin Bay Area Leadership Mission to Israel is the importance of Belonging – a sense that "this is mine," a feeling of ownership and full inclusion in a group that allows "a community to become part of the definition of one's personal identity."

This sense of true belonging is something the Children of Israel yearn for during their ongoing journey, and the twelve tribes attempt to retain connection between one another without sacrificing the need to do so on their own terms and in their own particular manner. Offerings are made to inaugurate the altar by each of the tribes. While these offerings appear to be identical, each day is described on its own terms. The offerings that each of us make to bolster community will always be unique.

This week's parsha actually begins at the moment of completion of the grand census taking in the Sinai desert. Parashat Naso tallies those who will be doing the planning and organizing [avodat ha’masah] of transporting the Tabernacle. It is this organization that enables entry into moments of deeper self-reflection [avodat ha’avodah]. Various laws are also revealed including the ritual of the wayward wife, known as sotah, as well as the spiritual practice of the nazir.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's illustration depicts the profile of a woman accused and awaiting the priest's verdict. The sotah ritual requires a wife suspected of infidelity to drink a potion which will determine her guilt or innocence. In our more feminist and gender-aware era, the ritual is controversial, rightly condemned for its severe patriarchal framing. It is worth noting, though, that the outcome would almost certainly render an accused woman innocent. That's a far sight better than public execution, which was the usual punishment for suspected adultery in ancient times. What today appears inhumane and sexist may have been a progressive invention in its own day. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Bamidbar -- Numbers 1:1 – 4:20

Facebook_CoverDesign_BamidbarCommunity building requires many relational building blocks for success. As we journey through the Book of Numbers this year, I am reflecting upon the lessons I learned with Dr. Sarale Shadmi-Wortman (Oranim College of Education) during the Rabin Bay Area Leadership Mission to Israel.

There are four tangible ways of measuring the intangibles of intentional community. One key for community building is Commitment; you want each member to feel responsible for the general good of the group, for its spiritual and emotional well-being.

In the desert of Sinai, there is a collective understanding of the need for a census of the twelve tribes to be conducted. The Levites are to serve in the sanctuary, substituting for the firstborn, who were disqualified upon their worship of the Molten Calf. In dismantling and transporting the portable sanctuary, the Levites bore a great burden. The Kohathites carried the sanctuary’s vessels, while the Gershonites were responsible for the tapestries and the Merarites transported the wall panels and pillars.

In other words, it took a coordinated effort to ensure the continuity of this site for communal worship. While each tribe retained its own leader and flag, marked by tribal color and emblem, it was the greater purpose of community that galvanized their journey and its ongoing inspiration through the desert.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's illustration is a straightforward depiction of one of the Levites' prescribed Mishkan chores: "They shall remove the ashes from the altar and spread a cloth of purple wool over it. They shall place on it all the utensils with which they minister upon it: the scoops, the forks, the shovels, and the basins-all the implements of the altar." (Numbers 4:13–14) Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Introducing Zion(ism) Matters

facebook_zionismmattersThis year, our popular Thinking Matters: Modern Jewish Philosophy mini-course series is introducing an offshoot series dubbed Zion(ism) Matters!

Although we think we know what Zionism means, it is always helpful to revisit its past and present, as well as to consider its future. This exciting new series will explore Zionism through lectures, celebrations, and art exhibits.

Details and readings for upcoming Zion(ism) Matters single classes and mini-courses are included below. (The full 2016–17 course overview can also be viewed as a simple .pdf file by clicking here.)

All classes meet on Thursday evenings from 6:30 – 8 p.m. All sessions are FREE for CBS members, but students are encouraged to make a donation to CBS. For nonmembers, each single session is $12. Alternatively, nonmembers can purchase an 8-session pack for $84, or the full semester subscription for $180.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR ZION(ISM) MATTERS ONLINE


On Love Of Israel
November 10, December 8, January 26, & February 23
(4 sessions w/ Ephraim Margolin, Esq.)


Course Description: Ephraim Margolin is a longtime professor of law who, before moving to the United States, served as Secretary to Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun. He is a Hebrew University and Yale Law School graduate who has a rich knowledge of Israeli politics and culture.

His four-session mini-course will consider Israel through a contemporary lens, drawing on the country’s remarkable history and much Jewish thinking.

Session 1: Limits On Criticism of Israel
Session 2: Glorifying & Rejecting Jewish Power
Session 3: Roots Of Peace And Justice In Israel
Session 4: Self-Hate In Modern Israeli Culture

Readings: TBD

Zions: Home & Exile Beyond The Middle East
December 1
(1 session w/ Aaron Hahn Tapper, PhD)


Course Description: Dr. Aaron J. Hahn Tapper’s one-session class will explore Jewish "zions" outside the State of Israel, with special attention to the dominance of the Diaspora/Zion binary and subordination of non-Middle East Jewish homelands. Dr. Hahn Tapper is the Chair of the Department of Theology & Religious Studies, the Mae and Benjamin Swig Associate Professor in Jewish Studies, and the Founder and Director of the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco. In June 2016, Dr. Hahn Tapper published Judaisms: A Twenty-First-Century Introduction to Jews and Jewish Identities (University of California Press).

Readings: TBD

Philosophy Of Zionism In Ahad Ha'am
January 5
(1 session w/ Ovid Jacob)


Course Description: Ovid Jacob joined Rabbi Glazer on the Irving Rabin Community Building Mission To Israel last year. Following that trip, he has become interested in exploring novel ways of connecting members of the Bay Area Jewish community to Israel. This single-session class will explore what Zionism meant to Ahad Ha’am, the pre-state Zionist thinker who found himself at loggerheads with Theodor Herzl. Herzl’s priority was political Zionism, whereas Ha’am is credited as the founder of cultural Zionism.

Readings: TBD


CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR ZION(ISM) MATTERS ONLINE

Lead image credit: The background appearing in the Zion(ism) Matters title image is a 1902 illustration by Ephraim Moses Lilien, who was known for fusing Zionist iconography with an Art Nouveau style. Lilien's biographer dubbed him "the first Zionist artist."